The core team at RS Sailing are life-long sailors who love being on the water. We’d like to think we’ve developed some great boats for people like us and for the next generation of sailors, so we want to do our part to protect the environment we all enjoy sailing in.
We are continuously looking for new ways that we can help protect our playground, and we read this blog before ‘Ocean Day’, where they highlight ten hard-hitting facts about the current state of plastics in our oceans.
Emotively armed with those facts, we took some time to create some helpful tips that we, as dinghy sailors, can genuinely get behind in the boat park and on the water to help reduce the plastics in our oceans.
So first up in the left-hand column are the 10 facts highlighting the staggering state of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Next up in the right-hand column are our 10 top tips that we as dinghy sailors, can genuinely do in the boat park and on the water to help reduce the plastics in our oceans.
1. Every minute, two lorries worth of plastic are dumped into our oceans – Currently, 8 million metric tons of plastic winds up in the oceans. That’s enough plastic to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full rubbish bags of plastic…compounding every year. The amount of plastic trash that flows into the oceans every year is expected to nearly triple by 2040 to 29 million metric tons.
2. Microplastics – Microplastics in different forms are present in almost all water systems in the world, be they streams, rivers, lakes, or oceans. There is more microplastic in the ocean than stars in the Milky Way.
3. Ocean plastic patches – There are five massive patches of plastic in the oceans around the world. These enormous concentrations of plastic debris cover large swaths of the ocean. One patch in particular, known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” covers 20 million square kilometres of water.
4. Taking over – By 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight).
5. 363,762,732,605 – As of 2021, there are at least 363,762,732,605 pounds of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
6. Nowhere is safe – Plastic has been found at 36,000 feet (approximately 11km) in the Mariana Trench, meaning not even the deepest part of the world’s oceans can escape contamination.
7. Over 1 million marine organisms are killed each year – Over 1 million marine organisms are killed each year due to plastic pollution in the ocean. Animals who eat plastic often starve because the plastic prevents them from properly swallowing food.
8. Increased risk of disease – The chances of disease on a coral reef are enhanced by 22-fold by plastics. In 2018, a huge survey of the 159 coral reefs across Asia-Pacific region showed that over 11.1 billion plastic particles are entangling the corals, and this number is estimated to increase dramatically by 40% by 2025. Plastic debris may also cause physical damage to the corals by exhausting the resources for the wound-healing process. Importantly, more than 7000 species of fishes, invertebrates, plants, sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals can be found in the coral reef ecosystem.
9. Disrupting the natural marine ecosystem – Animals are now colonising the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, meaning that they are consuming plastic waste and also living in previously uninhabited areas. All of these developments disrupt the natural marine ecosystem.
10. Foodchain – Many animals at the base of the food chain eat microplastics. These animals are then consumed by others that humans eat.
10 top tips
1. Invest in a reusable coffee mug & drinks bottle – We know how important that morning coffee is after an early start to get to the club and that being well hydrated before you hit the water is essential for a great performance. Still, neither are good enough reasons to be using single-use plastics. Invest in a decent reusable coffee mug that will keep your morning brew warm whilst you rig your boat, and get a decent reusable drinks bottle that will last you a lifetime of fun.
2. Say no to single-use plastic – A plastic glass for your cold pint when you come off the water, plastic cutlery and plates for the sailing club BBQ that evening. It’s sometimes really hard to say no or ask for an alternative when so many clubs are run by volunteers and goodwill. If you’re able to positively make your point, the sustainability message will work it’s way back to the sailing club committee where they can make proactive changes to minimise, if not remove entirely, their single-use plastics.
3. Tie your reusable bottles in the boat – We’ve all been there, you’ve spectacularly mucked up a gybe, capsized and you have to choose between getting the kite down as your helms giving it ‘all that’ from the centreboard or swimming after your drinks bottles – sadly getting less sass from your helm usually wins out! A simple bit of elastic can change all that.
4. Remove fiddly wrappers before you get out on the water – Trying to rip open a cereal bar with your teeth between races, with either cold hands or chunky gloves on is a challenge. Ensuring the wrapper doesn’t fly straight out the back of the boat significantly adds to stress levels. Try unwrapping your snacks before you get on the water and storing them safely in a drybag for easy, stress-free grazing between races.
5. Ditch the fleece – A sailing club classic fashion statement from the late 1970’s, keeping you warm in the boat park or as a mid-layer under a splash top. We’re no experts on this so we headed to Ocean Clean Wash for the facts. Fleece is commonly made of polyester, and polyester is a synthetic fabric. What makes polyester fleece a clothing item that adds to the plastic pollution in our oceans is the way it’s made: fleece yarn is very weak because the fibres are very short, and they come off easier than from other clothing items. Just by wearing and washing fleece, millions of these plastic fibres are shed and end up in the environment. More than one-third of the microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic clothing. So please – ditch the fleece!
6. Eliminate electrical tape – Wound around the bottom of split pins, tiller extensions, trolleys, shroud plates, the mast when you’re packing up to travel home. Electrical tape plagues some dinghies, and it perishes and falls off over time. Ask yourself, do you really need it? If you regularly checked your shackles, took all the friction out of your kite system or invested in a reusable pair of shroud covers, how much electrical tape could you save from ending up in the sea?
7. Buy spares from sustainability-conscious sources – We can’t talk for any other retailers other than the RS Sailing Store, but did you know that over the last 2 years we’ve made a huge effort to use fully biodegradable and 100% plastic-free packaging with Priority Direct? With environmentally friendly self-adhesive paper packing tape, paper strapping which is a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic strapping, 30% recycled and fully recyclable bubble wrap and durable cardboard packing boxes, we’re really proud that most of the packaging our products come in are fully biodegradable and 100% plastic-free! We’re not perfect and we can’t do it in all circumstances but we’ve come a long way and we’re proud of the changes we’ve made so far. We were recommended Priority Direct by a sailor in the RS family, they are a partner of 1% for the Planet, which means they give 1% of the sale of each and every one of PrioryElements products to environmental charities; so by purchasing from the PrioryElements range we’re not only making sustainable packaging choices, we are also giving back to the planet.
8. Repair or buy pre-loved rather than replace with new – Have you got a part or accessory that’s not in tip top condition? Before you login online and go to order a brand spanking new one, have you had a go at repairing it or trying to source a pre-loved alternative? Head to your Class Association Facebook group and ask if anyone has some good ideas for repairing it or if they have any used kit lying around. Not only will you feel like a superstar for saving the planet from even more plastic, but you will also probably save some money too. Win, win!
9. Grab any plastic you can see on the water, beach or in the boat park – We’ve all sailed past plastic carrier bags, drinks bottles, and even the occasional traffic cone whilst out on the water. If it’s safe to do so, why not sharpen up your boat handling skills whilst you’re not racing and try and scoop them up and pop them in your boat? Any rib or committee boat will happily take the offending plastic off you so that you don’t have to race with it. The same principle applies on shore but with no boat handling required at all! If you see plastic blowing around on the beach or around the boat park, capture it before it inevitably ends up in the ocean.
10. Rally together a beach clean – If you’re waiting for the breeze to fill in or moderate, why not rally together an impromptu beach clean crew from your amazing RS class buddies? On a most basic level you’ll need to get permission from the club, some protective gloves, something to contain the plastic you collect and ensure you have somewhere to recycle the plastic at the end of the beach clean. Get those basics ticked and you’re off!
We hope some of these 10 simple tips help you make changes for the better. We all need to invest in our planet and some small changes will make a big difference. Engage with your RS class and clubs to make positive change and #protectourplayground from plastic.