On my 2023 Oslo to London Windsurf Expedition, I will be returning England’s littered plastic bottles to London along with lessons learned about Deposit Return Systems from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

English Littered Bottles and the UK Deposit Plan

While completing my second expedition in 2015, I was struck by the amount of plastic waste lining the Scandinavian coast. A closer look at the still legible labels, showed that these bottles, carried by the ocean’s currents and wind, had traveled across the sea all the way from the Netherlands and the UK.

The goal of this summer’s expedition is to symbolically bring these bottles home. I will be windsurfing 2000 km from Oslo to London on a board made from the River Thame’s littered bottles and recycled foam plastic reinforced with mycelium (very strong biodegradable mushroom thread).

Lessons from Other North Sea Countries

Deposit systems are the most effective way to combat litter at it’s source. The UK government plans to introduce deposits on plastic bottles and cans by October 2025, however a plan has yet to be defined. I know from my own experience how influential the opposition from supermarkets and other corporations can be, so it’s critical that an effective law be written and instituted

To aid the development of the UK law, I will be collecting lessons learned from the countries I will visit along my route. These lessons will be offered to me by the former ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, all of which have instituted deposit systems. In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and Surfers against Sewage, I will hand them over to political leaders in London as Message in a Bottle. My goal is for these lessons to be used as guidelines by the UK in order to write a successful law.

Storytelling Power

Interview by Dutch Radio at the start of the North Sea Crossing Expedition 2016

My expedition from Oslo to London, between June 16th to July 17th, will be an exciting surf adventure across one of the North Sea’s main plastic soup routes. However, my journey will not be easy as I will be traveling against the wind and tides to return litter back to it’s source.

Troughout my expedition, I will publish a video diary on our Instagram channel and other social media channels. Additionally, I will release vlogs and podcasts to tellthe public about my journey. You can already listen to my conversation with designer Ron van den Berg about the construction of my board and preparation for the expedition (Back to the Bic Bamba - in Dutch).

All Along the Coast Line

The bailiff hands out a Judicial Notice to the CEO of Pervasco

Along the coast lline, I will stop to visit people and organizations that are fighting against plastic pollution.

Together, we will share our experiences with actions, campaigns, challenges and successes, so we can learn from each other and strengthen our strategies. A key learning I will be sharing is the effectiveness of leveraging a judicial notice, which is a a legal means by which companies are made formally aware of their product's pollution coupled with an urgent call to reduce it. We've used this method successfully several times in the Netherlands to reduce plastic litter (see Results) and I believe others can employ it as a useful tactic.

Biodegradable Mycelium Surf Board

I build a new surfboard for each of my expeditions. While my previous boards were constructed mostly of littered bottles, when it comes to materials my current focus is on circularity i.e. creating a board made of both recycled and biodegradable materials. The board for this expedition will be constructed of:

  • Plastic bottles I found in the River Thames
  • Recycled polystyrene foam (EPS)
  • Mycelium: Ultra thin mushroom threads that make long connections and grow into a rock-solid degradable layer - this network of mycelium threads holds the bottles and styrofoam together to shape the board
  • A skin of waterproof bio-based epoxy

I am not accusing the material, but the way we put it to use. Plastic is a catalyst to our throw-away society.

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