Back in July, I embarked the PLASTIC FREE challenge.
It was tough. Plastic sucks! It’s EVERYWHERE! I couldn’t escape it.
I did better than last year but in order to become totally plastic free I’m going to have to change my whole lifestyle, habits, compulsions and addictions. I don’t know if it’s possible, but it’s a future goal. Did you try too? I’d love to hear how you got on!
The tricky bit was because I live in a van I have no storage or refridgeration for food. Convenience got the better of me and I would buy plastic packed food on occasion, mainly because I’m starving from being in the sea.. I have definitely shifted to shopping at local stores in St Agnes and St Ives and have found thinking ahead and preparing my meals (but not too faring advance!) to be the key.
The bonus part is that I invested in lots of new products, found alternatives and investigated people and organisations doing amazing things to combat this massive problem! Thanks to Sprouts in Newquay and Plastic Freedom, I now have a plastic free beauty/grooming regime! And I feel genuinely hopefully that we can sort our shit out!
Since my first letter to A Surfers Path in 2009, when I called upon the surfing community to wake up to this huge problem, I believe a massive tipping point has occurred. Not only are we aware, but we’re trying to do something about it.
The other week I was having a mooch at the Eco Park market and came across Michelle Costello. She creates art out of plastic she finds on the beach and is such a lovely person! I was stoked to buy one of her little framed whales, which now hangs perfectly in my van. I wanted to learn more about Michelle and what inspired her to take the leap from leaving her job to full time artist, so here’s a short interview with her; enjoy! And if you can make it, get to her workshop at the Eco Park this Sunday 23rd Septmber!
Can you tell us a bit about your connection to the ocean growing up.
I was always close to the beach, we spent all our summer holiday at Gwithian as my family owned a chalet there. For 6 weeks or more we lived there and we loved it. My family have also always had a yacht, my dad who is in his 70s still sails on the Falmouth river and I have spent countless hours with my family there, rowing, fishing, swimming and sailing.
Where do you live now and how do you feel about your home?
Now I live in lllogan which is close to Portreath. I live next to beautiful fields and open countryside, woods and amongst wildlife.
I adore my home and my environment and I look after it when ever I can. I pick up litter every day from around my village. There is a small stream at the bottom of my lane and l know that whatever litter enters it will more than likely end up on the beach.
I feed the birds and encourage a natural habitat around us for them. I am passionate about saving the last open space in my village from being built on, hoping to create an area for wildlife and people to enjoy.
How did you get into collecting beach litter?
I have always picked up litter from beaches...beer cans and glass etc but on February 14th 2014 my eyes were opened to a real problem. Plastic all over the beach . Not just local litter but plastic that had been in the sea for a long time washed up all along the strand line at Perranporth. There were bottles everywhere.
My husband and I spelled out HELP from them. Also there was lots of small debris. Bits of broken plastic and amongst it Lego and smartie lids, soldiers and vintage toys and hairclips.
I am a treasure hunter at heart. I was hooked on collecting it.
I started to look into to marine debris on the internet and watched the Albatros trailer made by Chris Jordan. It had a profound effect on me. I started to clean beaches in my spare time, often spending 6hrs on the beach with my husband, daughter and our dog.
I soon became aware of the 2minutebeachclean and was lucky enough to meet Martin Dorey with his girls while we filmed with BBC Newsround about the Lego lost from the Tokio Express container spill. We had lots of Lego at that point so my daughter was interviewed for the show.
I set up Smartie lids on the beach on Facebook then later on an instrgram account.
I started making art from the plastic l found and and it had a great response, appealing to people as they started to understand the massive problem of plastic in the ocean.
I also started to use less plastic in my life and encouraged others to use less too. I took my metal straw to the pub long before they were available in this country and was laughed at !!! I now sell them and bamboo toothbrushes.
How has doing this work changed your life?
I worked at my local school for 9 years as a Teaching Assistant. I started to take my year 4s to clean the beach at Porthtowan and Portreath as part of the surfers against sewage spring and autumn series . Back at school we would then make some art from the plastic we found often creating art galleries in the foyer of the school to get the message out there.
In July 2018 I was able to leave my TA job and clean beaches and make art 24/7. I've made my hobby into my job! I still connect with my school and local community. I will take the year 4s on the Autumn beach clean in October and have a workshop with them. I have also done some work with #loveportreath.
Who are your biggest champions/inspirations?
My first inspiration was Tracey Williams a look beach cleaner who taught me all I know about beach plastic. She is the font of all knowledge on anything lego lost at sea.
Martin Dorey and his amazing 2minutebeachclean family are another truly inspiring community. His team are so supportive of people all over the world picking up litter.
Then Sir David Attenborough. He has helped spread the word about marine debris to previously unreachable people.
Do you support/work with any charities in particular?
I give £1 to the Marine conservation society for each item I sell. I also sell my art at the National Trust Cafe in Boscastle and on the #2minutebeachclean website, giving them a % of sales.
Another big thing I am a part of is the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition. We meet quarterly to talk about plastic and raise awareness and campaign. It is run by local beach cleaners Claire Wallerstein from Rame Peninsular Beach Care and Delia Webb from Friends of Portheras Cove.
What would be your advice to anyone who wants to go down a similar route?
Go to an organised beach clean run by MCS or Surfers against sewage.
Find out all about the safety things to look out for ie needles, tides, glass, cliff falls and learn all you can.
Join groups on Facebook or instagram ie.
Beach combings bizarre and beautiful.
Tregantle trinkets treasures and Trash
Smartie lids on the beach
Lego lost at sea
See what other people find and stay in touch.
When can we next find you at the Eco Park?
At the “roots culture” market on Sunday 23rd September, with my workshop at 2pm.
Thanks so much to Michelle! Check out her website here.