Nurdle hunting

What is a nurdle? Well, pick up a plastic item in your home and there is a good chance that it will have been made from lots of nurdles. They are tiny pellets that are the building blocks of the plastic products that we use in our homes. They are also found on a lot of beaches. And they really should not be.

Nurdles and other microplastics found at Wittering

After nurdles are produced they are transported across the world in their billions. During each stage of the industrial process, from pellet to product, nurdles are spilt and, if not cleaned up, enter our rivers and waterways, eventually reaching our oceans. Across the UK it is estimated that as many as 53 billion pellets could enter our oceans every year. That’s 35 tankers’ full being dumped in the seas.

Once at sea, nurdles and other plastics are known to attract and concentrate chemical contaminants in the sea to their surface. Due to their size, and often clear colour, nurdles can look like fish eggs or other small animals which makes them particularly attractive to seabirds, fish and other marine wildlife. Plastic can get trapped in an animal’s stomach making them feel full and stopping them eating real food leading to starvation and potentially death. So, they are not good.

Nurdles don’t need to become marine litter at all. In fact, there are simple measures that can prevent them escaping into the environment. Data gathered by The Great Nurdle Hunt which is running from 13 to 22 March, shows industry and decision makers that there is a problem and that people care about it. The Great Nurdle Hunt was launched in 2014. Since then the data collected has helped build up a growing picture of nurdle pollution and evidence of the problem. Last year “As You Sow” lobbied oil and gas shareholders to support the publication of data on nurdle spills. Exxon was the first to agree to this.

In the UK, over 6,000 companies are part of the plastics industry; producing, importing and converting nurdles into plastic products. You may remember on the BBC’s War on Plastic programme when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visited the INEOS petrochemicals plant at Grangemouth. INEOS has specially made boats which are bringing a constant supply of US Shale Gas to feed its ever growing oil refinery to produce – yes you have guessed it – plastics. The INEOS plant on the north east coast of Britain produces a mind boggling 65 million plastic pellets or nurdles every day.

In 2018 about 450,000 nurdles were found on a beach in North Queensferry as part of the Great Nurdle Hunt. This beach is about 12 miles from the Ineos Polymers plant where nurdles are produced. The nurdles collected weighed a total of 9.35kg.

When you find and report nurdles on our beaches you are helping to draw attention to nurdles that end up in the ocean because of poor plant management practices. You can do this by taking part in your own Great Nurdle Hunt  or by joining Planet Aware for a group nurdle hunt on 22 March.

Information from FIDRA – the environmental charity working on plastic waste.

Make a mini beach-clean bag

Turned inside out in the gusts and rain of storms Ciara and Dennis many umbrellas have been consigned to the scrapheap. But a few, (at least part of them) are going to find a new lease of life as a collection bag for mini-beach cleans. Usually it is the metal spokes of an umbrella that break while the fabric itself remains largely in good condition. And that is the bit we need for this project.

Our throwaway society often means that as soon as a product or item no longer fulfils its original function we chuck it out and say that it is no longer our responsibility. But all that rubbish has to go somewhere – either in the ground or into incinerators or worse still into the oceans. Some is recycled but it is unlikely that difficult to recycle items like umbrellas will be among them.

At Planet Aware we try and produce less waste, while recycling and reusing where we can. Finding a new lease of life for a bit of an umbrella is a small thing. But it is also an example of a way of thinking that we can apply more generally. Something might no longer fulfil its original function – but that does not mean it should be considered waste. Apply this to everything – from DIY to unwanted clothing and you will soon start to reduce your waste and resource consumption. Stuff is only waste because we choose it to be.

And the great thing about the umbrella bags is that we genuinely need them for our #2MinuteBeachClean boards. And I am pretty sure that we are not alone in that as you will find these boards across the country.

The umbrella bag

If you would like to make your own umbrella bag you need one broken beyond repair umbrella. WARNING: a broken umbrella can have some nasty spiky bits so PLEASE TAKE GREAT CARE. Remove the fabric from where it is attached to the umbrella snipping the thread carefully and not the fabric itself. The broken bit may be recycable if it is all metal. Remove the pointy bits at the end of the umbrella panels too so you only have fabric left.

You many need to wipe clean your fabric or just brush it down before you make your umbrella bag, depending on how dirty it is.

One you have removed your umbrella fabric from the rest of the umbrella you will have a nice big circle of fabric like this (right). My umbrella had eight panels. I decided to make a bag out of two panels which meant that one umbrella can yield four mini beach clean bags. I tried to minimise the amount of sewing needed but you can experiment.

Carefully cut along the seams of one umbrella panel. Then cut along the next but one panel seam. You will now have a quarter of the umbrella fabric in the form of two triangles attached on one side (see below left). Fold it over at the seam so the seam on the connected side of the panels is showing and pin the open side together. You will need to sew the open sides together – copy the sewing on the seam that it is already attached.

On a machine start sewing about 5cms from the top and reverse sew up to the wide opening and then back down the side seams. Stop when you get about 12cms from the point of the bag. and reverse stitch a few cms to make the end strong.

Turn the bag inside out and sew along the bottom from the bottom from the 12cms point. Trim off the fabric below this seam close to the seam. Turn the bag the other way and then sew along the bottom to hide the raw edge.

The bit of fabric that you have trimmed off will be used to make the handle. This is the trickiest bit but it is great if you can make it work rather than cutting a new piece of fabric.

Take the triangle that you have trimmed off. Cut along the seams to separate this into two triangles. Place one on top of the other and measure about 4cms from the point. Sew across the two piece of fabric at the 4cm point to join them. Open out this single piece. It will look a bit like an hour glass. Now fold the fabric together with the long sides meeting and sew along these sides so that you have a tube. Turn this inside out. This is your handle.

Fold the raw edges inside – you may need to trim a bit off here and then attach them to your bag on the outside – either side of a seam is best. I have done a quick sketch to explain these steps. If they are incomprehensible please message me!

You will find that one of your bags will have the little strap that is used to keep the umbrella folded up. Do leave it on and use it to keep the umbrella bag folded up.

If you make any of these bags and use them anywhere please do send us a picture! And if you find another use for umbrella fabric – indeed the whole of an umbrella let us know!

A Repair Cafe for the Isle of Wight?

A Repair Cafe is a place where the local community can come together to carry out simple repairs on items that would otherwise be thrown away. Started in Amsterdam in 2009 Repair Cafe is now a worldwide movement. There are 2,000 running across the globe and in 2018 they stopped around 350 tonnes of stuff from going to waste. You can bring electronics, textiles, bikes, furniture and computers for minor repairs.

Repair Cafes are a volunteer-led movement and work because they have a groundswell of support – both to run them and to use them. In the south of England Repair Cafes are operating successfully in Portsmouth, Chichester, Southampton and Lymington. Could a regular Repair Cafe work on the Isle of Wight?

Clare Seek, who was instrumental in setting up the Portsmouth Repair Cafe, will be sharing her experience and knowledge at Shaping Newport on Saturday 14th March 2020. This meeting is an opportunity for people who are keen to be part of a team to set up and help run a great social and environmental initiative to find out more.

If you want to support and develop a regular cafe on the Island – do sign up to the event on 14 March via EventBrite.

If you are interested in finding out more about how a Repair Cafe works there is information on the Repair Cafe movement website. You can also drop in to a local repair cafe in Portsmouth, Southampton or Lymington with an item to repair – or just to see for yourself how they work.

Why we need to tackle our clothes addiction in 2020: and how to get started.

We seem to have a love-hate relationship with clothing in this country. We are buying many more items each year than a few decades ago – but wearing them for less long. And it is wreaking havoc on our planet. Why? Because each new item of clothing comes with a cost that is way more than just the figure on the price tag. A T-shirt that you bought for a few pounds would have needed around 2,700 litres of water to produce. That is more than one person drinks in three years. Most of the water is needed to grow the thirsty cotton that is used to make the T-shirt – and cotton is often grown in countries where water is already scarce. You might have seen satellite pictures of the Aral Sea which was once the fourth largest body of inland water in the world. It has shrunk to a tiny fraction of its former self because it was used to farm unsustainable volumes of cotton used in clothes manufacture. On top of that the cotton industry accounts for huge volumes of pesticide use – a sixth of the world total. Using pesticides so that we can wear more clothes is not a good way to care for the planet we rely on.

Water is not just a problem with production. Remember that Christmas jumper you bought last year? Chances are it was made of synthetics fabric – a product of the fossil fuel-based plastics industry. When we wash synthetic clothes very tiny plastic microfibres come out in the wash – and into our oceans. They are absorbed by living creatures – and ultimately by us. 

Our clothes have an impact at the end of their lives too. We bin around 300,000 tonnes of clothes each year – which (and this is based on my back of an envelope calculation) is the equivalent of more than 2 billion T-shirts. That is a huge waste problem: once in the household rubbish bin clothes will end up in incinerators or landfill sites. And the planet does not have the resources to keep making ever more clothing items to satisfy our fast fashion fascination. On top of that around a third of clothes in the average wardrobe have not been worn for over a year. That means that all the water and energy and labour that went into making them is just being wasted. 

Fortunately, things are starting to change as we understand more about the impact of our clothes buying habits. And there are things each and every one of us can do straight away. 

Start with buying less – it is really that simple. Go for a walk outdoors on the day you planned to go shopping. If you are feeling brave you can set yourself a target to buy nothing new (bar absolute essentials) for a month. You could even work up to a year. A year? Yes, it has been done. And if you do buy something new choose something that will last.

In the meantime, have a look through your wardrobe. One of the best things we can do to reduce the impact of our clothes habit is to make more use of the items we already have. What are you not wearing? If it is good quality but you really can’t wear it then sell it, donate it to a charity shop or swap it with a similarly-sized friend.  Got an item that you love but in need of mending? Get the needle and thread out. And if you are not confident with sewing, then book yourself on one of the Textile Transformation sewing workshops starting in March. We will get you on the road to repairing your clothes!

Textile Transformation is a joint project between Making Space and Planet Aware supported by Hampshire County Council and is all about helping us to cut the amount of waste textiles that we each produce. Check out our full list of workshops and events on our blog page and follow #TextileTransformation on social media to stay in touch with the project.

Alternative Spirit of Christmas December 2019

Christmas is a great time of year to rest and enjoy being with family and friends. But this message can often be lost in the noise of commercial interests and the pressure to spend money and consume stuff. So, escape for a while and celebrate in a different way with Planet Aware and friends.

The 2019 Alternative Spirit of Christmas events on 1 December at Quay Arts in Newport and on 14 December at Ventnor Exchange will bring people together to create a Yuletide celebration away from the commercial noise. It is a chance to find and share ideas and information on how we can still enjoy this time of year whilst treading gently on the Earth. Take part in craft activities designed to start us thinking about using less of our Earth’s resources, and most of all enjoy time with others whilst poets, story tellers and singers share stories of a Christmas where time with others and gifts from the heart bring us together.

Last year six performers appeared at our first ever ‘Alternative Spirit of’ event in Ventnor. If you would like the opportunity to share and perform a song, poem, or story about a less commercial Christmas we would love to hear from you. It could be something you have written yourself or something already well known.  The theme ‘Alternative Spirit of Christmas’ can encompass work about friendship, empathy, the natural world at this time of year, how you overcame a difficulty with the help of others or a stranger. Funny, sad and thoughtful pieces are all welcomed.

You will need to be a reasonably confident and able performer and enjoy performing your work in  a supportive and positive environment. Please get in touch with any questions and details of what you would like to perform via info@planetaware.co.uk. This is a family friendly event so please do consider this in your choice of material.

‘We Love Ryde’ project launched!

We are thrilled to be involved in a new project in Ryde aimed at helping everyone be part of keeping the town’s streets, beaches and parks free of litter.

The new project,  under the title ‘We Love Ryde’ Litter Lenders will enable local residents and visitors to borrow litter pickers from Ryde Library in a similar way that people borrow books. This means people will be able to get involved in tackling litter and plastic pollution whenever they have time. And it means groups can easily run their own event without having to buy new equipment.

At the same time a new #2minutebeachclean board is being installed on Appley Beach and a #2minutelitterpick board provided in Ryde Town Centre. The boards have everything needed for someone to do a quick two-minute litter pick including litter pickers and bags to put the rubbish in.

The project has been funded by donations from the Goodleaf Tree Climbing Vertical Marathon and Ryde Town Council, and is being overseen by Planet Aware with the support of Ryde Business Association and Ryde Library.

Residents and visitors alike are invited to take time to do a quick beach clean and share their photos using the hashtags; #LitterPickerLenders, #WeLoveRyde and #2MinuteBeachClean.