I love the enthusiasm and energy of the Bigbury Net Zero team. Their latest project is to try and see if Bigbury can go ‘plastic free’, furthering the impact made by near neighbour Modbury which became the first town in the world to become a plastic bag free zone in 2007 (and look at how that expanded nationwide!) So they gathered local business owners together at Mount Folly Farm, above Burgh Island along with Gary Jolliffe of Till the Coast is Clear and his giant model whale, Whaley. Despite the sea fog that had rolled in and completely hidden the sea and the island, great conversations were had over delicious wood-fired pizzas (thank you Helen Bigbury Bay Pizzas) and Gary told us about his brilliant project which collects plastic waste from the waters around south Devon, and encouraged those present to think of ways they can change their habits, practices and businesses to use less plastic. Recycling isn't the answer - most plastic can't and won't ever be recycled. We have to eradicate as much single use plastic as we can so that less of it ends up degrading in the environment. Gary now has over 22 tonnes of plastic waste at his yard, gathered between the Tamar and Torbay since 2018 (most of it from between the Erme and Torcross). "There is a hell of a lot more out there that we've not even got to yet," he says. Whaley was recently built to draw attention to the devastating impact of plastic pollution on marine life and our oceans. He is covered with fishing nets, and dressed with samples of all the types of plastic Gary collects from our coastline. From flip flops to crabbing nets it is clear that leisure activities cause a huge amount of plastic waste. He has piles of spools used for plastic crabbing lines - most of which can't be recycled because of the kind of cheap plastic they are made from. Wooden crabbing lines are available but sadly not sold in most waterfront shops and stalls. But Gary says all that is just a tiny fraction of the waste generated by the commercial fishing industry. Whaley's tail is draped with “dolly ropes” which are used to protect fishing nets that are dragged across the ocean floor in the controversial practice of 'bottom trawling'. Many of these plastic threads get lost and drift through the oceans or onto the beach as plastic waste. About 20 to 50% of all dolly ropes end up in the sea, and as they biodegrade they become tiny microplastics, which can be eaten by fish and end up in the human food chain. You will have seen orange or blue nylon threads on beaches - that's the result of these dolly ropes which can take up to 600 years to break down. The DollyRopeFree project in the Netherlands is trying to come up with an alternative material to use for these ropes. So called 'ghost gear' from the fishing industry also threatens shallow coral reefs and damages fisheries by killing seafood that would otherwise form part of the global fishing catch. Environmental organisations across the world are working to educate and persuade the fishing industry that it needs to do more to stop polluting the seas and endangering wildlife with discarded gear and nets. Back in Bigbury-on-Sea the talk is more about single use plastics in small on-shore businesses, and local Venus beach cafe is vying to become the greenest beach cafe in the world - a noble endeavour!
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