An Eden man plans to make a “powerful” global statement about marine pollution by sailing a boat made entirely of recycled plastic up the River Thames next year.
Ben Morison, aged 45, of Bampton Grange, near Shap, says that his ambition is no pipe dream as he and a team of volunteers have already built a 10m traditional sailing boat from plastic which has already made a number of high impact voyages from the Kenyan coast.
“I am currently looking for partners in this region who do plastic recycling because we want to build a bigger boat that is capable of sailing from Kenya to Europe,” said Mr Morison, who is director of Far and Wide at Edenhall, near Penrith, which organises safaris and beach holidays in Africa.
“The ambition is to sail up the Thames and open up Tower Bridge and take the boat into the centre of London to deliver a really powerful message, not just to the UK but globally, about the amount of plastic that is polluting our oceans.”
He has enlisted the help of Northumbria University engineering lecturer Simon Scott-Harden, who lives near Greystoke, to help set up the recycling process which will involve transforming the plastic into a material resembling wood.
Mr Morison was the brainchild behind a colourful boat made a couple of years ago in Kenya that was built entirely from recycled plastic and thousands of repurposed flip flops.
So many were used in its construction that it was named FlipFlopi.
It completed a 500km expedition along the Kenyan coast to highlight that single use plastic waste from places like China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines end up being washed up on the beaches of the African country which relies heavily on tourism.
Mr Morison said it was a voyage that received worldwide attention and within three months the Kenyan government had introduced a complete ban on single use plastic in national parks, on beaches and in public spaces.
He said that the country’s president introduced the policy just ten days after stepping aboard the plastic boat that was made from five-and-a-half tonnes of plastic collected by 50 volunteers from a beach that Mr Morison visited while reconnoitring a resort for his holiday company.
“It’s always been about getting real change happening and the thing that I am most proud of is that we managed to have an influence on policy at a national level,” said Mr Morison.
“Our project is founded on a very simple belief that plastic is amazing, it’s versatile and beautiful and cheap but it should be part of a circular economy and not a linear one. We believe in an end to single use plastic.”
Mr Morison has visited Hunter Hall School, Penrith, and Sedbergh School to get his message across to young people.
He has also staged an exhibition in a shop on Sedbergh high street.
“It’s our youngsters that are going to have to live with the consequences of this insane amount of plastic going into the environment,” said Mr Morison.
“A plastic bottle breaks down but never completely degrades. We now know that 99 per cent of all sea birds have got plastic in their bodies.”