British Isles

Planet Patrol

Author Lizzie Carr shares her vision to dramatically reduce the plastic pollution in Britain’s waterways. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, we take a look at some of the most inspiring women in travel who are continuing to blaze the trail for future generations.

 It was seeing a coot’s nest constructed as much from plastic as from vegetation that galvanised me into action. I resolved to draw attention to what was happening on our watery doorstep. This prompted my decision to paddleboard the length of England, along its connected waterways, photographing every piece of plastic I saw, geo-tagging the location to create an online map that showed the scale of the problem. Although rubbish increased around towns and cities, even remote areas had plastic bags lurking in trees or bottles in the water. I was horrified. 

To up the ante, I then revisited the four worst-affected spots to collect all the rubbish I saw. I spent 7 hours on the banks of the River Trent, gathering 1,000 or so bottles into a ‘trash raft’ that I then paddled along the river. The people I passed were always shocked to find out where the trash came from. I hope that what they learnt has changed their behaviour. As you paddle through Britain, and remove the plastic you encounter, take a moment to tell passers-by what you are doing and why. Together, we can improve Britain’s waterways.

The aim of Planet Patrol is not only to help restore our rivers and canals back to their original beauty so that we can better enjoy them but to also intercept the 80% of plastic that emanates from inland locations yet ends up in our oceans. Once plastic hits the ocean, 99% of it sinks – lost in a blue abyss and left to fragment over hundreds of years creating all sorts of problems. You might think I am simply motivated by making my playground a more appealing place to paddle. But that is largely a side benefit. The bigger, indeed catastrophic, issue at play is that plastic is killing our marine life. I for one cannot stand by and watch while our species has such a detrimental impact on aquatic and marine ecosystems.

If you want to join the fight against plastic being dumped in our waterways then download the Planet Patrol app (available on the App Store) and, when you hit the water, please take a moment to collect rubbish that you see and log it on the app. Every little piece removed helps. Or join a clean-up event organised by #PlanetPatrol. On boards we can access parts of waterways that are inaccessible by foot or other means. So let’s do something positive about it. Let’s be responsible paddlers. Let’s all be part of #PlanetPatrol.

Find out more in Lizzie’s book:

Bradt Travel Guides Paddling Britain

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