Converting harmful into helpful

Watch the world’s first kayak being manufactured from 100% recycled beach plastic, using plastic collected from Devon & Cornwall beach cleans under the BeachCare programme.  The intention is for the recycled beach plastic kayaks to be used by community group volunteers to collect marine plastic from the water for recycling.

The initiative is the brainchild of marine conservationist Rob Thompson who launched Fathoms Free Paddle for Plastic campaign in January 2018, as another way to help combat the damage to marine life and ecology caused by waste plastic from the fishing industry and food packaging.  The project is about converting harmful into helpful, with plastic from the sea going back into the sea; a virtuous circle to counter the increasingly vicious circle plaguing the world’s oceans.

Rob founded Fathoms Free in 2014 in response to his experience of marine plastic when diving.  Globally, 300 million tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic are produced each year, with an estimated 8 million tonnes of it entering the sea.  With 70% of it sinking, there is a huge job to do cleaning up below the shoreline, as well as above and along it.

The ‘harmful into helpful’ model ticks all the boxes.  It enables access to inaccessible coves, estuaries and other areas not frequented by regular beach cleaners, provides a means of disposal for the plastic generated through clean-ups and helps fund Fathoms Free conservation activities.

For over two years, Rob has worked in partnership with BeachCare and Keep Britain Tidy to develop a circular economy business model to build the infrastructure (ocean plastic collection, sorting, recycling, storage facilities) for manufacturing sea-to-sea plastic products including a bodyboard and prototype sit-on-top kayak, recycling around 7 tonnes of beach waste over the past year in partnership with Exeter City Council.

To complement land-based beach clean projects such as the Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch, the Paddle for Plastic campaign is designed to encourage paddlers to help tackle the ocean plastic floating off our coastline.

In February 2018, Palm Equipment, based just outside Clevedon, North Somerset, moulded the world’s first, 100% recycled beach plastic kayak to help promote the campaign. More kayaks are to be produced and distributed to clubs in the Southwest over the coming months to raise awareness amongst the paddling fraternity and encourage paddlers to unite against marine plastic.  The scale of the problem is immense, but if lots of people get involved it will make a significant difference.

Bob Slee, Technical Director at Palm Equipment adds, ‘I personally am very passionate about this especially as TV programmes like Blue Planet and Countryfile have pushed this into the limelight in a way that only TV can. It’s a hot topic with government backing, and for a small company like Palm to become involved in this is something special.  Palm is delighted to be part of such a ground-breaking campaign and excited about its positive impact.’

Kate Gay (March 2018)