The pirates’ bounty is melted to make sea kayaks, which are then used to collect more garbage.
From the tip of Cornwall to the Isle of Skye, with an ‘all aboard’ message, people search the water for hard-to-reach marine plastic.
Steve Green and his partner Monika Hertlová (main photo) have coordinated over 300 volunteers, many of them local at their base on the Helford River in Cornwall, building on their roving and stirring home on the former Dutch icebreaker Annette.
Steve Green is the pirate-in-chief of Clean sailing in the ocean (COS), a group of sailors, surfers, swimmers and divers, united in their love for the ocean and disgusted by the amount of trash it contains.
With a fixed crew of the couple’s two-year-old boy, Simon, and Labrador, Rosie, the 113-year-old, 55-ton ship also acts as a mobile base camp. People disembark in a flotilla of smaller boats to reach the most inaccessible parts of the mighty Cornish coastline and clean them of all the rubbish they can.
The group also has a “rapid response unit,” says Green. “People send us a photo or location, and we have about 20 volunteers who are ready and ready to pick up any ‘ghost gear’, before it is washed out to sea again with the next tide. We have found fish boxes and gear from South Africa, China, North and South America. It’s crazy. “
The key to the operation is Annette, a 55-ton, 113-year-old former icebreaker. Image: Alexander Turner
Since COS started in 2017, the group has registered and recalled 250,000 individual pieces of plastic from its local cleats, with a combined weight of more than 50 tons. Green says that about 85 percent of this has been recycled and reused. Some of it melts and granulates in the Ocean reclamation project in Exeter, before being donated to COS in the form of recycled sea kayaks to help them find even more trash.
A mutual support system based on local friendship is the backbone of COS’s success. Many locals who are unable to donate time offer products to the group, such as beers, groceries, and empanadas, to help keep the ship afloat.
“Many Cornish people are not financially motivated. It’s almost an island attitude: we all support and take care of each other. It is an ideal location for a testing ground for a circular economy, ”says Green.
Since COS started in 2017, the group has removed 250,000 individual pieces of plastic. Image: Alexander Turner
In 2018, a ship was collectively funded by representatives of Surfers Against Sewage on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, to reach the most polluted areas of the island. Working in conjunction with Highland’s advice, full plastic-filled containers can be removed from a single beach.
Back in Cornwall, Simon Myers and his son Milo are among those who have volunteered with COS. Like many in the group, they believe their strength collectively lies in tackling global issues on a local scale.
“Living in Western Europe, we have been largely isolated from almost all the consequences of our actions for the last 50 or 60 years, but we have an emotional bond with this landscape, the coast and the people. These problems, related to overconsumption, pollution and climate change, are becoming increasingly personal. We love this part of the world. We grew up here and we want to protect it, ”says Myers.
“We are standing next to a Jolly Roger, at the mercy of the wind, it is romantic, it is sailing,” adds Myers. “It is necessary to have quite visible and demonstrable ways to counteract a consumer culture.”
For Green, it’s not just about picking up trash: “It’s [also about] Other people see us doing that and maybe they start thinking about not giving it up in the first place, or better yet, not buying it. That’s what is really going to change the world. “