Make a Change: Battling Ocean Plastic with Sian Sykes

Neil McRobert3 min read#EverydayLifeOutdoors

At the end of this glorious summer we travelled to the beaches of North Wales to meet Sian Sykes and talk about how to save the world.

Sian is a stand-up paddleboarder - a record-breaking one - and she loves the sand and surf. Earlier this year she became the first person to successfully circumnavigate the entire coastline of Wales by paddleboard, solo and unsupported. She took on the challenge to raise awareness of the damage that single-use plastic is doing to our oceans and coastlines.

As Sian explained to us, the danger of plastic overload is real and it’s already happening. Single-use plastic is entering the ocean and gathering in huge areas called gyres. A single gyre in the North Pacific has already swollen to the size of Texas.


“In the UK we use 38.5 million plastic bottles a day. We need to make a change.”

Plastic pollution on beaches

The plastic suffocates sea-life and reduces oxygen production; it washes up and clutters our beaches. In just a few hours we helped Sian collect enough plastic trash to fill several buckets

The scale of the fightback can seem impossible, but for Sian the solution is in the choices we make. She completed her expedition without using any single-use plastic and asked people she met along the way to make their own non-plastic pledge.

Sian Sykes collecting plastic

The outdoor industry is waking up to the need for a change, to their part in helping protect the environment that we all love. Major brands like Jack Wolfskin, adidas and The North Face have made sustainability and recycling a central focus of their new season collections.

Jack Wolfskin introduced Texapore Ecosphere, the world’s first 100% recycled waterproof membrane. They shred plastic bottles and other single-use plastic and transform them into top-quality material. As well as intercepting plastic pollution at source they also reduce waste by using garment off-cuts from other industry, including their own productions. For autumn/winter 2018 they are expanding the process to create 100% recycled insulation, with Ecosphere variations on their Microguard and Nanuk fleece fabrics.

Jack Wolfskin Texapore Ecosphere

The North Face have committed to recycled materials as well. Their recycled face fabrics are created from plastic bottles and feature in key new pieces, like the Kabru Down Jacket, and established classics like the Trevail Jacket. Every jacket made keeps a little more plastic from entering the ocean.

Adidas have gone a step further by actively taking plastic out of the sea. Working with Parley – the global initiative for combatting the ocean-plastic problem – adidas have created the Parley Shoe. The yarn in this running shoe is woven from reclaimed ocean plastic. The equivalent of 11 plastic bottles goes into each shoe, and over a million pairs have already been created. This means that millions of plastic bottles are on runners’ feet rather than our beaches.

If, as Sian says, the solution to the plastic-problem lies in the choices we make, then this welcome new trend in outdoor clothing gives you, the customer, the chance to choose sustainability over waste. Every piece of recycled gear may just be a drop in the ocean (pun VERY much intended) but it all adds up to a new wave in outdoor clothing. Choose wisely.

Neil used to be a bookworm, an "indoor" type if ever there was one. After finishing a PhD he writes short stories about spooky places and odd people. Living in Switzerland, the Canadian Rockies and the north east region of the USA convinced him that there was something to be said for this whole outdoor thing. Now he runs everywhere he can, competing in races most weekends and endlessly planning the next great adventure to some far flung part of the world. Recent trips include Costa Rica, where he tried and failed to surf; Vietnam, where he almost got stuck in an underground tunnel; and back to Canada, where he came face-to-face with a bear. Watch this space for further updates on Neil's global bumblings and the occasional athletic success.


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