It was on one of our first beach cleans in 2008. I thought it was a good idea, to take all the plastic we collected, wash it, and dump the lot in Jonny´s swimming pool!
Fast forward six and a half years, and yes, while it might have been a bit mad and made a mess (which I did eventually clean up) it´s proved to be an extremely worthwhile exercise…
Sarah, a friend who owns and runs Arrifana Surf Lodge with her husband Aldo, dropped by with their new daughter Sierra. Sarah looked at the pool in dis-belief.
There was something about seeing the plastic floating in water that put it in to context at what´s happening out in the ocean. Holding her tiny baby in her arms, Sarah felt compelled to do something.
Sarah went home and ordered a water cooler for their guests on the beach. Previously they´d been giving their guests bottles of water in single use plastic – SUPs.
They now have two coolers and reusable cups. Which yes, are made from plastic (that´s all Sarah could find at the time) but they have already been going six seasons, and they will be usable for many years to come. They also had a water filter system fitted to their tap.
In this time, Arrifana Surf Lodge have refused around 12,000 single use plastic bottles. Yes 12,000!! How?
Well in a week we would probably have to provide around 50 bottles of water for clients. (an average) That figure is worked out if we have 10 people surfing everyday for 5 days. Obviously out of season we don’t always have 10 but in the Summer we can have up to 20 surfing. So in a year I would say 2000 plastic bottles!! GEEEEZZ that’s a lot!! Over 6 years 12,000 bottles! Scary to think about it like that!!
It´s not just the plastic bottles, but the plastic that wraps them they´ve refused.
What Sarah hasn´t mentioned is the MONEY. Water in Portugal is cheap, when you buy a bottle. What about when you buy 12,000 bottles? A small bottles like this is around 19 cents. Still, 19 cents times 12,000 is 2,280. That is 2, 280 Euros! Even taking the coolers, cups, and water filtration into account, they have still saved around €1,500!! ( the coolers were €50 each, they are still going strong, even after working hard on the beach every day for six seasons. The filter works out €100 a year)
Arrifana Surf Lodge have saved as much money, as they have plastic!
Then there´s the time. Time putting water in a trolly, time getting it out to the car. Time walking it in to the house. It all adds up. There´s better things to do in life than carry water bottles around, I´m sure you´ll agree!
12,000 bottle tops refused. That is a matter of life… or death to Albatross chicks, where in the region of 200,000 chicks die ever year on Midway Island out in the Pacific, bottles tops being an all to common feature in the dead chicks.
Surf Schools work directly with the oceans. The oceans are their livelihood. Albatross chicks asides, who wants to go on holiday and surf in waves full of plastic? Imagine 12,000 bottles laying on the beach…. Not a pretty sight!
I shot for Surf Schools for a number of years, including Arrifana Surf Lodge. Plastic would wash up at my feet as a daily occurrence. If our rate of plastic consumptions continues like it is, by the time little Sierra is my age, who knows what the oceans will look like? In her short seven years, plastic pollution in the oceans has risen dramatically.
But we CAN change the tide of plastic pollution, by refusing single use plastics. Even if you start with just one product as Arrifana Surf Lodge has. Then it can be easier to change other things, once that´s a habit. One of the frustrating things (one, yes there are a few!) about refusing single use plastic is it often feels futile, but as this clearly shows, over time – it´s NOT. Far from it!
Remember, every refusal adds up. This is a number of refusals Arrifana Surf Lodge should be proud of!
Photography by Cassar Photography ©