Today’s inspirational beach clean guest writer is Caroline Bond of Kittie Kipper.
I stumbled across Caroline’s amazing instagram feed some time ago, and have enjoyed watching her journey as a creative, and as someone who speaks out about climate issues. A fibre artist since 2014, based in East Sussex.
Marine plastic is killing our planet and our wildlife. Making bowls, floor mats and animal sculptures – Kittie’s artwork is 100% made of waste found while cleaning British beaches, and makes an important statement about how we must act now, to save our planet.
Caroline writes: “Starting out as a beach cleaner was easy….
My husband surfs our local wave at Tidemills in East Sussex during the winter. When the waves work there it’s good, but it’s all about wind direction, tide times. And it’s usually raining and freezing, so I’m reluctant to get in and get frozen.
Winter swells mean the sea throws up a huge amount of litter, be it from the fishing industry or general plastics that have been resting on the sea bed or travelled from all over the globe.
I’d go down with him to see if I would change my mind and decide to surf, but in truth I always knew I’d probably chicken out. I’m not great in the cold water, it zaps my energy and I get the dreaded white finger making winter surfing in England a bit of a struggle. So while he surfed I’d put my time into cleaning up the beach.
So much litter strewn across the pebbles broke my heart. I truly love where I live and all the nature that surrounds our seaside town, and the idea of leaving it behind to get taken back into the sea was one I couldn’t face.
Being active and taking that responsibility into my own hands really changed me from the inside. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was 12, maybe even younger, and feelings of the world and it’s politics would overwhelm and consume me. Taking control of a small area where I lived really helped me to feel a sense of power, to feel a sense that I was contributing to something positive and helped me to stop focusing on the inner problems and start focusing on a problem that was and still is bigger than myself.
It also gets you fit, out in the wild spaces of outside, walking more, talking more, and it opens the door to the world of eco conscious living and consuming.
When you look at what you collect on your beach-cleans, it’s impossible not to connect with the items going into your bag. Sure, I didn’t throw that in the sea: I recycle at home, I “do my bit”. But it was really clear to me that I was part of the problem.
I started to use the ghost nets and ropes I found on the beaches, and repurposed them into small bowls. I made kits to help spread this method and encourage other beach cleaners to utilise this waste product into something with a new purpose, to give it some well-needed value. In the last five years, I’ve made as many things as I could think of, to help draw attention to ghost nets and the risk they pose to nature and wildlife, and to keep the problem of these silent killers of the seas in constant conversation.
I’ve been lucky enough to exhibit my work both near and far, and to collaborate with incredible designers like Linda Thomas @linda_eco_design who created the incredible #ghostnetdress which was exhibited at the Eden project this year. (It’s still touring, so if you get the chance, do see it and the headdress I created for it). It’s a vision. A scary but beautiful vision.
I’ve never met Linda in person. Social media has been pivotal in bringing the beach cleaning community together, as well as spreading the word on the fight against plastic. I found @2minutebeachclean back in 2014 and it’s been incredible watching their community grow to a global movement. Its founder Martin Dorey began picking up for just 2 minutes after he surfed his local breaks in Bude, and began to share this ethos with the world. Dolly, @dollyland looks after the 2mbc social media family, which on Instagram alone consists of 29.6k followers. How exciting that a grassroots idea from one person has evolved into something so unifying and positive. And grassroots activism is what I’m all about.
I’m the summer months our beach here gets swamped with visitors. Gone are the ghost nets and fridges and tyres washed up over the winter, but while the water gently laps the beach, families in their thousands flood our coast side towns with plastic wrapped picnics and an attitude of “someone else will clean this up”, and I find that really hard to ignore. I hand painted a sign last year asking people to take their litter home with them, saying ‘the beach is not a bin’. It’s still there, and that bit of beach has remained looked after.
I chalk messages up around the bins during peak season too, reminding people that the area around the bin is not a bin itself. If you’ve brought it down in your car or on foot, you can take it home again to dispose of afterwards.
Our seafronts and parks cannot take the enormous influx of litter that people discard, leaving it for the seagulls to try and get into to find food. Them and the foxes. Why should they eat through that plastic tub of olives that you didn’t quite finish but couldn’t be arsed to take home to dispose of? Short answer, they shouldn’t.
We have to take responsibility for the waste we generate. If we buy plastic bottled drinks or plastic wrapped goods then we are contributing to the waves of plastic waste, both in our seas and in landfill sites. We can’t expect that by putting our plastic recycling into a recycling bin it’s a done deal, that when we’ve committed those plastic bottles to the “correct bin”, they are going to be recycled and used again and will never leach out into the environment.
Plastic tampon applicators are found on probably every beach clean I do. It’s time to look further than our own convenience. Plastic-free periods are taking a firm foothold finally, with menstrual cups and reusable washable pads taking the spotlight. If not reusable, then at least plastic-free cotton tampons and pads. Ella Daish is campaigning to end period plastic through her Instagram @ecoelleuk and I’m excited to see where she takes it.
Marine debris and even oil slicks are being cleverly picked up by some more of my favourite grassroots activists. For example, @seabin_project who came together and designed a bin for boat moorings and marinas. Literally a bin for the sea. If you live on a houseboat or on a marina or work on one, I would put these guys forward for helping collect litter and debris from the quayside without using an engine or anything. Just a really clever design, put out into the world through hard work, passion and a love of the ocean. Gotta love those grassroots people, striding out. Trailblazing. So for our collective futures, let’s take some responsibility. So where are you going to start? What can you do today that will make a difference? And where will it all end? Well, I guess that is up to us all.
Further reading Linda Eco designer dress made from panty liners
Watch Kittie Kipper/Caroline’s TedTalk
Follow Kittie Kipper on instagram