The first continuous plastic sampling while circumnavigating the British Isles

A pioneering round-Britain sailing expedition is setting sail from Plymouth today with a diverse group of women on board, ready to sample the UK’s waters for plastic pollution.

The eXXpedition challengers will also be running awareness-raising events along the British coastline during their 30-day challenge, with events scheduled for Plymouth, Cardiff, Belfast, Arran, Stornaway, Edinburgh and London.

The all-female crewmembers include scientists, students, artists, filmmakers, businesswomen, psychologists, ocean activists and sustainability professionals, as well as experienced sailors.

Plastic harbour. Credit: Agathe Bernard

Plastic harbour. Credit: Agathe Bernard

eXXpedition, the community interest company behind Round Britain, specialises in all-women sailing trips with a focus on highlighting the devastating impact single-use plastic is having on our planet’s oceans, ecosystems and on human health.

eXXpedition has run previous expeditions all over the world, but this summer marks the first time they will have a crew sampling in UK waters.

Previous research carried out by eXXpedition has highlighted the endemic nature of microplastics within ocean environments globally and the increasing potential impact they have on human health.

Company co-founder and ocean advocate Emily Penn said: ‘After years of studying ocean plastics all over the globe I am so excited to be bringing this project home to the UK.

‘The more time I spend at sea, the more I realise that the solutions start on land.

‘We may be seeing the more obvious impact of plastic and toxic pollution in the more remote parts of our planet, but what is clear is that the pollution is coming from land – the UK included. We need to expose these issues and raise consciousness of the work to be done to solve them here in the UK.’

The eXXpedition crew are due to set sail in their 72ft challenge yacht Sea Dragon, owned by Pangaea Exploration, from Sutton Harbour, Plymouth today, 8 August.

They are scheduled to complete their voyage in the same location on 5 September.

eXXpedition Round Britain 2017 map

eXXpedition Round Britain 2017 map

Professor Richard Thompson, head of the International marine litter research unit at the University of Plymouth, said: ‘The government’s inquiry into microplastics last year brought the threats posed by marine litter to wider public attention.

‘But there is still a great deal of work needed to understand the full scale of the problem, while identifying potential solutions that take both economic and environmental factors into account.

‘We are currently involved in research and collaborations that seek to meet those goals, and this scientific voyage can certainly make a positive contribution to that work.’

eXXpedition successfully raised £10,000 through crowdfunding for outreach activities at ports visited during the voyage.

All sailing costs are covered by crew contributions.

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Case study

Bryony Meakins

Bryony Meakins

The sister of PBO deputy editor Ben Meakins is among the eXXpedition crewmembers.

Bryony Meakins will be embarking on leg 2 of the Round Britain adventure.

Bryony said: ‘On the 16 August I will be joining leg 2 of the eXXpedition Round Britain voyage- the first attempted continuous sampling of the UK focused on marine plastics.

‘Leg 2 will take me from the island of Arran round the top of Scotland to Edinburgh where we will be collecting marine plastic samples and stopping off along the way, running community engagement sessions.

‘Although I work as a marine scientist, this is not my day job and I am fundraising my place on the trip – I have set up a gofundme page here:

‘This is no ordinary research vessel however as we will be sailing (the boat is an ex- global challenge race yacht)! We are setting off to ‘make the unseen seen’, from the plastic in the waters around the UK to the toxins that make their way into our bodies, stopping off around the coast to carry out beach cleans and engage with local communities about the issues surrounding marine plastics’