Interview with founders of 100 Tons of Plastic, George & Ollie #EcoGreenChampions

100 Tons of plastic founders- Ollie and George

George Heming and Ollie Jackson are founders of campaign 100 Tons of Plastic. They are travelling around the world, doing beach cleans, presentations and just generally raising awareness of the work they do. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to find out more about their project, the motivation behind it and plans for the future. Keep reading!

George, Ollie, you both mentioned growing up near beaches and noticing increased amounts of plastic waste. Why did pledging to remove 100 tons of plastic feel like the best decision to tackle this problem?

We both grew up in coastal towns, spending a lot of time at the beach and out on boats. As we grew up we noticed an increase in the amount of plastic getting washed up ashore. After having such a close connection with the sea and physically seeing a change for the worse, this made us want to take action and fight the global issue of plastic pollution. So, we joined forces and decided to do something about it by setting up a campaign. We called it ‘100 Tons of Plastic’ as we wanted the name to be different and for it to signify our goal which was to be responsible in some way of collecting 100 tons of plastic waste. At the start, it was more of a personal goal and we thought only a few people might follow the journey, but now it’s grown into something more than just us collecting plastic off the beaches, and has gained quite a following which is amazing to see.

When did the project start and how much plastic have you managed to remove since?

We launched the project in March 2018 and so far we have a collected weight of 46 ton, coming in from all over the world. In 2019 we launched the 100 Tons of Plastic challenge where we nominated 3 people to go and pick up plastic wherever they were. They then had to weigh their collection and nominate 3 more people. This went off like a chain reaction and we were blown away by its success. This built a network of like-minded people all over the globe that we keep in contact with and some even carry out beach cleans on behalf of us, so whatever they collect goes towards the 100-ton goal.

There is a huge educational aspect to your project. Can you explain how exactly you are trying to instill a sense of environmental consciousness in children?

Education is so important with a topic such as plastic pollution for all ages, but especially for the younger generation as they’re at an impressionable age where they take everything on board. The younger generation are the ones growing up with this issue right in their face and we believe they’re also the ones who can combat it as they get older by making conscious decisions from things they’ve learnt previously. We have been lucky enough to have spoken to just over 2,500 students across many schools in the UK. Our talks are always positive as we think positivity is key to make a change so people think, actually these small changes in our daily life will make a difference. One of our larger projects we did in 2019 with schools was when we helped organise an art exhibition at a public gallery. This consisted of 14 schools coming together to carry out beach cleans which we helped with, and then transform this plastic waste into art installations around the gallery. That was an amazing experience and something we would love to do again! The feedback from doing school talks has been amazing and really motivating. From having teachers/ parents emailing us saying that their children have started implementing what they learnt with us, at home when looking at plastic consumed around the house and general daily life. Some even lecturing their parents with this new-found knowledge they’ve gained on plastic pollution. The fact these children are taking what we’ve spoken about back home shows us it’s worth doing and working.

You have created a documentary for primary school students, which is supposed to teach them more about plastic pollution. Which aspect of your project do you consider most appealing for this age group?

Yes, we recently launched our first documentary called ‘Paradise Island | Bali’s Fight Against Plastic’ where we explore the amazing projects that are operating on the Indonesian island of Bali to help combat the plastic problem they’re facing! The documentary was produced for all ages but I think regarding the younger age group the thing that has worked well with the video is it shows a different side to the issue, be that because its shot showing the issue on the beautiful island of Bali which is very captivating. Or by showing all the great things you can turn the plastic waste into, which they engaged in and enjoyed. It’s an upbeat video which has a variety of content within it, some which isn’t even plastic related, some of it is to do with reef conservation. But to engage people through video we believe it has to be fun and informative, which is something we try and keep doing throughout the entire campaign.

We can only assume how much more difficult COVID-19 made it for you to keep completing your mission. How have you dealt with litter picking during a pandemic?

The pandemic has provided many challenges for us and put all of our big clean-ups on hold which we won’t be doing until it’s safe to do so. But it did give us the time and opportunity to go and scout out our next clean up locations. However more recently with restrictions being relaxed slightly, we have managed to get out and do some smaller clean ups with our families. We recently collected the most amount of waste we’ve ever had in one beach clean weighing 951kg. We were 7 people and it took 3 hours of intense cleaning but it was a great sense of achievement once we got it all!

Before the pandemic you engaged in litter picking in several countries, Bulgaria and Indonesia being some of them. What is your perception of waste management in countries outside the UK?

It’s been amazing to have opportunities to be able to travel and clean up different parts of the world plus see first-hand how different countries are dealing with the waste. If we take Bali as an example, they lack funding to be able to deal with waste. Bali is a very tourism focussed island and with tourism comes larger amounts of waste but it’s hard to fund the infrastructure they need to keep up with it all. All over the world though, we are starting to discover some amazing projects being set up to help combat the problem and making a difference.

Are you involved in the political aspect of environmental activism? Do you feel like legal changes are essential for true change or should we only focus on our own actions instead?

Good question. I would say 100 Tons of Plastic is focused on the educational side and inspiring people to make personal changes. We haven’t really got involved in the political aspect of things yet, however, we do believe that legal changes would help cut out a huge portion of this pointless plastic, and help cut the loop on new plastic being produced which in turn would be a huge start to decluttering our waterways and helping out our environment. Single-use plastic for example is something that has been really talked about over the past few years and rightly so, as it’s a massive polluter and when there’s petitions etc for supermarkets and other companies to cut down on their usage of single-use plastic we, of course, support that. But the change needs to come from higher up. Plastic is an incredible material but this ‘pointless plastic’ usage is something that needs to stop, as it can stop, and is starting to but due to this being a global issue it’s a big task and will take time but if we all come together we will make a difference!

What are your plans once you reach the 100 tons goal? Are you planning to keep working in this sector?

We hope to have reached 100 tons of plastic in 2021 which is very exciting, so I think we need to collect 100 more! We’re starting to discuss what’s next for 100 Tons of Plastic and have got a few ideas in the works, but nothing to announce as of yet. We are both going to keep working in this sector as it’s something we are very passionate about and seeing what 100 Tons of Plastic has managed to do so far, we think we can go even bigger!

We look forward to having everyone follow the journey some more.

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