Yoga, paddle boarding, parkour and canoeing are just some of the free activities on offer as part of a summer series of wellbeing clean ups organised by eco-activist, Lizzie Carr, in her ongoing efforts to eradicate single use plastic from nature.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned pro - everyone is welcome to join in and no experience is necessary, making the activities at Plastic Patrol clean ups accessible to all.
In return, Plastic Patrol asks participants to pay a ‘nature tax’ by picking up plastic waste and logging it in the Plastic Patrol App. Every piece collected contributes towards Lizzie’s mission to remove and log one million pieces of plastic in 2019, representing the one million marine animals killed each year due to plastic pollution.
Lizzie took up paddle boarding following cancer treatment in 2014 as a means of rehabilitation and felt the positive physical and mental benefits immediately.
Her time on the water also exposed her to the devastating impact of plastic pollution in nature. She has since dedicated herself to exploring the globe on paddle boarding adventures, using her journeys to capture important data to highlight and educate on environmental issues affecting our planet.
In May 2016 Lizzie become the first person in history to paddle board the length of England’s waterways, solo and unsupported. She completed the 400-mile journey in 22 days, plotting more than 3000 photos of plastic waste.
Later, she returned to hotspot areas armed with paddle boards and litter picks inviting communities to join her mission and help clean up.
Lizzie commented: “Paddle boarding changed my life. It helped me to see the sheer volume of plastic waste clogging our waterways but also gave me a way to reconnect with nature.
"Before my illness I was in an environmental sleep walk and being out on the water opened my eyes to the problem. My hope is that running these clean ups, others will experience the same positive benefits as I did.
"By inviting people to join me on activity-led litter picks across the UK this summer – we’re providing a great opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, try new activities and understand the extent of the problem we face with plastic pollution.”
Whilst initial efforts began on and around UK waterways, intercepting plastic waste inland before it reaches the oceans, Lizzie’s ambition is much bigger.
This year, qualified instructors and clubs around the UK across five disciplines will run activity based clean ups, helping mobilise more communities and connect them with environmental issues through physical activities.
Lizzie’s campaigning is perfectly timed, as the government moves towards its 25 Year Environment Plan, and commitment to help ‘regain and retain good health’ and to make it ‘easier for people to get involved in improving the natural world’.
Official data has revealed almost 1.8 million work sickness notes handed out by GPs between September 2016 and September 2018 were for mental health, accounting for a third of all sickness notes with a recorded illness, demonstrating millions of us are impacted by mental illness each year. This initiative is tackling those statistic head on to help people take positive action.
Lizzie said: “Combining nature with physical wellbeing is incredibly powerful for mental health – it gives you a much deeper appreciation of the natural world.
Encouraging people to reconnect with nature through activity inherently makes you feel more protective over it – and that’s what Plastic Patrol is about. The ultimate aim is to restore the balance between environmental and personal wellbeing.
"By incorporating more activities, I’ve opened Plastic Patrol up to a wider network so more people can get involved. This will help gather even more data from other parts of the country, giving us invaluable insight into plastic waste issues not only in waterways, but also on land – parks, mountains, streets – gathering a huge cross section of data to analyse.”
The free Plastic Patrol app was launched in 2016 and leads the way in citizen science to address plastic pollution - currently holding the largest bank of plastic data for the UK inland waterways on record.
It is focused on building a tangible and valuable evidence base across the world through its growing army of passionate volunteers.
The data collected is analysed by partner scientists at University of Nottingham to provide current and detailed insight into trends and patterns of plastic pollution.
This insight will create vital evidence to inform public policy around smarter and more circular packaging solutions, and responsible manufacturing behaviour.
Lizzie concluded: “Being outside, exercise and mental health are all inextricably linked, and studies have shown the benefits of reconnecting with nature and spending time outdoors are endless - improved blood pressure, boosting mental health, helping to fight depression and anxiety, relieving stress, eliminating fatigue, the list goes on.
"This is why it made sense to bring all these elements together. In return, we’re giving something back to nature. It’s a win win situation!”
Plastic Patrol clean up events are taking place across the UK this summer with events already underway. To find out more information or book a space on a wellbeing clean up visit the Plastic Patrol website.
This article is based on a press release from Plastic Patrol.
Image: Lizzie Carr.