We All Have A Responsibility When It Comes To Marine Litter

Every piece of plastic that has ever been produced is still with us, in some form

03/01/2018 11:16 GMT | Updated 03/01/2018 11:16 GMT
Sian Sykes - author's own

It was almost pitch black, the moon and stars high in the sky, and as I floated across the water off the coast of Anglesey, North Wales, the sea underneath me lit up with phosphorescence. 

I was on a night-time paddle boarding excursion and this incredible, magical light show - caused by the disturbance of plankton - brought into stark contrast just how profoundly beautiful this landscape is… and why we need to do our utmost to protect it. 

As a regional rep for ‘Anglesey for Surfers Against Sewage’, I’m extremely passionate about where I live and where I work. I feel that it’s my duty to try and protect this wonderful corner of the UK. 

I want to be a role model to inspire, educate and raise awareness of the blight that is marine pollution and ocean plastics because, make no mistake, this is a massive problem. 

I don’t want it to be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, because many of us have no idea what ends up in the sea. 

When I’m not paddle boarding, I’m most often found walking my dog, Ruby, on my local beach at Newborough. It’s a gorgeous place with miles of golden sand and views of the mountains beyond. 

With almost every footstep I take, I’m picking up plastic marine litter - cotton bud sticks which people flush down the toilet, sanitary products, plastic water bottles and lids, balloons and very small pieces of plastic. 

And every day it breaks my heart, as I ponder the fact that the tide comes in twice a day...

North Wales isn’t a particularly problematic area for such pollution. It’s not all doom and gloom. But it is getting worse and it’s vital we raise awareness of the issues.

As part of my work with Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) we held four beach clean-up days this year through the help of other wonderful volunteers and we filled more than 100 large, heavy duty refuse bags with the detritus we’d collected. 

That might sound impressive, but we’ve barely even scratched the surface yet. 

The SAS charity recently carried out a survey which showed that the average person throws away 23kg of single-use plastic every year, equivalent to the weight of 1352 plastic bottles or 4,600 plastic forks.

Other stats provided by SAS make for increasingly worrying reading. Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans and around 5000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK. 

Recent studies, meanwhile, have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined.

Roughly 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.

And let’s not forget that a plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the marine environment, slowly fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces which eventually end up microscopic but never truly go away. This means that every piece of plastic that has ever been produced is still with us, in some form…

My regular jobs sees me guiding customers on paddle boarding trips on the picturesque lakes and coastal inlets of Snowdonia and Anglesey. It’s such a privilege to spend my days in this stunningly rich environment. 

And I encourage all of my customers to pick up any litter they find, too, and to make tweaks to their lifestyle which will help reduce the consumption of single use plastics. 

When we’re out paddling, if we come across anything on the sea or on the lake, we pick it up and dispose of it later. 

Meanwhile I’d encourage you to get out there and experience these places for yourself. 

Sian Sykes - author's own

We’re currently running night time paddle boarding adventures, under cover of darkness.  

Once your eyes adjust to the ambient light, the torches are turned off and you become immersed in the experience. 

Everything pauses. You can hear owls, you’ll see bats flying overhead, and if you’re lucky you’ll see the mountains silhouetted above you. 

We also watched a meteorite shower recently. A large group of us paddled out, lay down on our boards and watched the shooting stars. It was better than any fireworks display and it was truly magical.

It’s my hope that I can facilitate moments which will linger in the memory forever - and which will get people thinking about what they can do to help protect these amazing places. 

* For more information about paddle boarding, and to try it for free, head to the London Boat Show, which runs January 10 to 14 at the ExCeL London. For further details: