The plastic problem and how to sail responsibly

How you can reduce plastic pollution

25th Apr 2018

The movement to minimise our use of plastics has gained rapid momentum in recent months. Every day there are stories in the news about the harm plastic is causing to our beautiful oceans, wildlife and coasts. We were shocked by the recent reports of a sperm whale, which washed up on the Spanish coast after swallowing 64 pounds of plastic.



The amount of plastic we throw away is staggering and we dispose of 293bn plastic items each year in the UK alone. Between 5 million and 14 million tonnes of plastic is released into the world’s oceans each year, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council. One man, Daniel Webb, collected a year’s worth of his plastic waste after being shocked about how much plastic rolled in with the tide on his local beach.

Out of the 4,500 pieces of plastic he collected over 12 months, 60% was food packaging and just eight pieces were biodegradable. He has created an exhibition of his collection on a billboard and hopes to tour schools and festivals to raise awareness of plastic consumption. Surfers Against Sewage feels strongly about plastic pollution too, even saying that plastic is the “new sewage”.


How you can make a difference

Plastic waste seems like an impossible problem to solve but just small changes make a massive difference and this is where you, the sailing community, come in…


1. Provision carefully

Don’t over order as you’ll be left with rotten food that needs to be thrown away and try to buy from local markets and traders rather than big supermarkets to avoid food packaging. If you forget to pack cosmetics and toiletries, make sure anything you buy on holiday is free of microbeads. Take your own reusable water bottle too. Read our guide on provisioning.

2. Research your waste itinerary

Getting rid of waste overboard can have a real environmental impact, even for non-plastic items. According to 4Ocean, it can take up to five years for a cigarette filter to biodegrade. A plastic bag can take 20 years, a plastic water bottle can take 450 years and a plastic lid can take up to a 1,000 years. As you plan your itinerary, research where you can dispose of waste along the way and make it a priority to recycle where you can.

3. Join in the cleanup

If you find a beautiful beach, make sure you take any waste away with you. You might even want to take part in local beach cleans to get to know the locals and give something back to a destination you visit frequently. Take a look at the International Coastal Cleanup campaign.

4. Dine responsibly

Skip plastic coffee cups and lids and ask if they have ceramic mugs or bring your own eco-take away cup. When enjoying a cocktail in the evening at a beach bar, skip the plastic straw as plastic straws take 200 years to biodegrade. Consider bringing your own metal straws.

5. Respect the regulations

Respect marine parks and don’t motor, fish, snorkel, swim or interfere with wildlife if you are not permitted. Don’t tread on coral, drag your anchor on precious reefs, or take shells home.


Itinerary support

Talk to us about your itinerary and we can help with provisioning and waste advice. Call our team on 01227 479 900.

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