Meet The Cornish Plastic-Collecting Navy

Inspiration | By Bruce Bridges | August 15, 2021

The summer has been rife with discouraging environmental news, much of it concerning intensifying climate trends that have left the conscientious with little hope to cling to. And that’s not to say that other specters in the green arena are taking a break: indeed they remain fully on our plates.

It is all enough to leave one too hopeless to soldier on at the individual, local level where progress happens. But as Mr. Rogers would remind, it is in such times that one must look for the helpers, for there are always helpers to look to even in dire times.

And now is no exception, for Earth has its helpers even as faith is in some circles lost. But it has not been lost as yet in the English county of Cornwall. At least, it has not if a certain adapted Dutch ice-breaking vessel has anything to say about it.

Meet The Annette

The Annette is the water-faring home of Steve Green and Monika Hertlova, who together have coordinated hundreds of volunteers in the area of Cornwall’s Helford River. Green runs Clean Ocean Sailing, which is an assortment of various aquatic types who bemoan the amount of garbage that finds its way into the water.

They could have resigned themselves to a deteriorating world, as we all can, but they didn’t. Instead, they sought something they could do, even something small and local that might only have needle-moving effect if matched by the efforts of many around the globe. And something they could do they did find. Together, operating from the Annette, they work together to rid near-inaccessible stretches of the Cornish coastline of said trash. And if you can believe it, the trash then picks up trash.

Clean Ocean Sailing

Clean Ocean Sailing, since its start in 2017, has removed a combined 50 tons of plastic from various Cornish coves- some 250,000 individual pieces. And about 85 percent of that plastic gets recycled in a quite fascinating way: some is melted down and formed into pellets in Exeter, where they are made into kayaks. And those kayaks are donated back to Clean Ocean Sailing where they are used to retrieve even more plastic. It’s all thanks to the network of vessels, including a rapid responses unit, that float on the spirit of Cornwall’s people.

“An awful lot of Cornish people aren’t particularly financially motivated. It’s almost an island attitude: we all lean on each other and look after each other. It is an ideal place for a testing ground for a circular economy,” says Green.

Going Forward

All of this is not to make something singular and unrepeatable out of what Green, Hertlova, and their community have done: indeed it all goes to show what each of us can do if we are moved by such an example as theirs (just as they no doubt were themselves moved by examples which preceded them. Little momentum would be built if large, seaworthy vessels were a prerequisite, after all! And it will only mean something if all of us are mobilized. Green himself hopes that the ball they set in motion will be kept rolling by others, even you:

“It’s other people seeing us doing that and perhaps they start to think about not dropping it in the first place – or even better, not buying it. That’s what’s really going to change the world.”



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