‘The Smack’ at Clerkenwell Design Week – from marine plastic to lighting…

Yikes. Where have the last two months gone? It feels like an age, yet only yesterday that we were down in the underground cells of Platform for Clerkenwell Design Week 2017, showing the latest iteration of our marine plastic product research work – ‘The Smack’.

Made using 365 recovered Lucozade Sport bottles, split into their component materials and remade into fittings reminiscent of jellyfish, ‘The Smack’ went down an absolute storm. We had a huge amount of interest not only in the installation, but the story of marine plastic itself. Press interviews, TV interviews and a spot on a documentary – as well as hundreds of conversations with people staggered at awfulness, yet beauty of the piece and countless tweets and instagrams. #TheSmack was well shared!

What was really encouraging was the amount of people who knew about the wider issue. Some people knew about the Parley x Adidas marine plastic trainer, others had been watching the Sky Ocean Rescue project and some had even seen the latest marine plastic documentary – A Plastic Ocean. Awareness is certainly growing.

The few days of the event zipped by, but we are already booked in and planning what we will be doing for Clerkenwell Design Week 2018. We will be back down in Platform again with our next iteration of products made from reclaimed marine plastics. We have a VERY exciting project in the pipeline that you will see popping up here very soon… watch this space as they say.

(images by claire potter)

We’ve been at the Global Ghost Gear Initiative AGM…

That’s right folks – we’ve been away. Apologies for the radio silence these last couple of weeks, but things were rather hectic here at the studio, including a rather lovely trip from Brighton to Miami for the third Global Ghost Gear Initiative AGM. Coming together with people from all over the world, we were there as representatives of the World Cetacean Alliance, speaking about the different outreach projects we completed in 2016 based around marine litter.

Ghost gear is the term given to abandoned, discarded or otherwise lost fishing gear, which causes continued entrapment, entanglement and ingestion issues of all species. As modern fishing gear is plastic based, it does not degrade, so continues to fish for decades… The GGGI brings together the vast amount and variety of people needed to find solutions to these issues – from industry, fishers and policy makers to recyclers, NGO’s and manufacturers.

global ghost gear initiative -agm-miami-16

Arriving in Coconut Grove, Miami, Day one of the GGGI AGM started with a series of inspiring presentations from World Animal Protection (the current Secretariat) and break out sessions with each of the three working groups – Building Evidence, Best Practice and Replicating Solutions.

Due to the studio’s work, and activities with WCA, I sat into the review from the Replicating Solutions Group who reported a series of brilliant projects from around the globe, concentrating on ghost gear removal and recycling. There was much discussion about what worked well and how activities could be improved and scaled up.

global ghost gear initiative -agm-2-miami-16

After lunch, we sat back in our working groups, where I was officially adopted into the Replicating Solutions group – the largest (and loudest) group of the three. Figures. We then started to plan out our voyage for 2016-2017, coming up with some rather audacious goals for new projects, scaled up projects, new activities and new forms of communication. Day one finished and we were exhausted…

global-ghost-gear-initiative-2016-attendee-photo
the 2016 GGGI delegation!

Day Two dawned hot and bright on the Miami coast and we started the final sessions reporting back to the other working groups about our plans – and starting to link the dots between the activities that both Building Evidence and Best Practice were planning. Things took shape. Comments were made, plans were set.

global ghost gear initiative -agm-3-miami-16

One of the last sessions was the Lightning Talks – a set of ten 5 minute talks from different members of the GGGI community. From gear recovery projects to working with developing countries, the logistics of gathering and storing ghost gear picked up at sea and what needs to be considered when transporting it for recycling – each person whizzed through their 5 minutes.

I was delighted to be reporting with Natalie Barefoot from CetLaw about the work we had both undertaken with WCA over the past year – from the interns who travelled to work with whale watching groups to educate visitors on the issues with ghost gear to the Ghost Gear Chandelier we made earlier in 2016 and exhibited at the Clerkenwell Design Week in May. The link-up between WCA and the Brighton Etsy group was also presented, along with the wonderful Lulu by Designosaur – one of my most treasured pieces of jewellery.

global ghost gear initiative -agm-raw-for-the-oceans

It was also great to see the range of products that are currently made from recovered ghost gear – either in an unprocessed form, or as a raw material in a mini pop-up exhibition. From Econyl based recycled nylon swimwear to door mats, bracelets and of course, Bureo, who were showing their skateboards and sunglasses. I was rather taken with their Yuco glasses…

global ghost gear initiative -agm-bureo-sunglasses

A final sum up and we were done. It was great to be invited to be part of such a great group of pro-active people and we cannot wait to get going with the work we have got as part of our WCA / GGGI Replicating Solutions working group activities…

As always – watch this space!

(images by Claire Potter)

France to ban all single use plastics by 2020…

Last week there was rather a large announcement in the world of plastics. France is to ban all single use plastics such as cups, plates and cutlery by 2020, and is the first country in the world to do so. Retailers and suppliers will have from now until the 2020 deadline to rethink their single use plastic lines to ensure that anything labelled as ‘disposable’ can be composted in a domestic setting (and not just in the higher temperatures of a municipal composting setting).

Black Fork 1

Now, this is pretty huge news. First off, this is not that far in the future. Just three years. Plus, it appears to be relatively solid with few, if any immediate loopholes. We are sure that some manufacturers will try to find the wriggle room however… (just like The Card Factory in the UK, who cut the handles off their plastic bags, turning them into ‘sacks’ to avoid the 5p plastic bag charge…) So it is no surprise that the packaging industry in France has already claimed that this new ban infringes European free trade laws.

But like many drives, this is not without it’s flaws. Whilst removing single use plastics such as cutlery and cups from the market, even using biodegradable alternatives have their drawbacks. The land use that is required to make the base materials of biodegradable plastics such as maize is considerable, and there are also reports of how these ‘degradable’ materials do not break down properly in other settings, such as the ocean.

So what is the answer? Using reusables is certainly the way forward – the ‘zero waste’ movement has been gaining more momentum over the past few years as people recognise that any waste – be it plastic or otherwise – could, and should be avoided. Taking a spork, or small cutlery set is the way forward, yet this means a considerable behaviour change from the on-the-run convenience food that we have become accustomed to.

Yet nothing happens unless you start, so France – we applaud you – and hope that other countries follow in your plastic free wake…

It’s Zero Waste Week – here are our top 5 zero waste tips…

We cannot believe it’s been a year since the last one, but Zero Waste Week is here! Founded by the fantastic Rachelle Strauss, the first full week of September each year is dedicated to Zero Waste – really trying to think about the waste that we all produce, and making positive changes that will hopefully last for the rest of the year. Look at the fantastic Zero Waste Week website for lots of tips, but to get you started, here are a few from us at The Ecospot…

1 – ditch the single use water bottles. This is a very quick and easy one to start, but my goodness it makes a difference. It is estimated that we use and throw away around 5,000 plastic drinks bottles every 15 seconds in the UK – the majority of which does not make it into the recycling stream. So – ditch the single use bottle and get a nice reusable bottle, like this stainless steel one by Klean Kanteen for Surfers Against Sewage.

And while you are over at Surfers Against Sewage, why not sign the online petition for the campaign Message in a Bottle, which is calling the UK Government to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles to get them recycled and out of landfill and the ocean! (PS – claire is a rep for SAS in Brighton now too!)

2 – say no to plastic straws! Ah, summer. The time of lazy afternoons slurping iced drinks in an effort to cool ourselves down. Except that plastic straw is a terrible example of single use plastics (SUP’s) – used for a tiny amount of time and then thrown away. Bonkers. Given that we go to so much effort to extract oil, isn’t it crazy that we use it for things like straws? So – as they say – just say no. Or bring your own – you can get some rather marvellous stainless steel straws that you can use again and again…

Image result for stainless steel straws

3 – get a reusable coffee cup… spotting a theme here? The quickest, easiest and often most effective way to get into Zero Waste habits is to look at the disposable things in your life and find an alternative. Recently, the television programme Hugh’s War on Waste, fronted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall demonstrated how many coffee cups are discarded in the UK every year (around 2.5 billion). It also demonstrated how many people were optimistically putting them into recycling bins not knowing that a thin layer of polyethylene on the inner surface of the cup meant that it was not recyclable. Taking your own coffee cup can be a bit of a behaviour change at first, but once you are in the routine of sticking it in your bag (or leaving your house in the morning with a cup of tea / coffee in it), you will soon get into the habit. Plus, you can often show your support for your favourite charity and perhaps even get a discount on your coffee too. (Sea Shepherd cup from Keep Cup – £14)

Medium

4 – make your own lunch. And take it in a reusable container… We’ve done drinks. Now for the food. Buying your lunch out will not only cost more money, but the packaging that comes with ‘convenience’ is hard to swallow. Little plastic forks, endless wrapping, separate dressing tubs – it all adds up to a huge amount of waste. By making your own you are also tackling Zero Waste on two fronts – stopping buying stuff covered in single use plastic and probably eating something that may otherwise have ended up in the bin. Yesterdays leftovers. We really like stainless steel containers for our lunch, but a plastic tub will do to.

Image result for stainless steel tiffin box

5 – wash your face with a cloth. Not a face wipe. We remember as children being pestered by our mothers to wash our faces with our flannels. We each had one on a different coloured piece of ribbon and mum would soon know if we hadn’t as it would be as stiff as a board. And still, to this day, it’s one of the first things we do every day. But with the advent of ‘convenience’ there are many options when it comes to washing our faces, most notably and wastefully, the face wipe. These synthetic inventions are mostly not biodegradable and are a main contributor to marine waste. So – get a face cloth instead and use it each day. Team it up with a nice microbead free face wash and you’re set.

Image result for face cloth

So – there is our very quick and very easy Top 5 Tips for Zero Waste Week. We are sure that you can think of plenty more and do head over to Rachelle’s main website for Zero Waste Week to see lots more tips.

(images via associated links)