Cleaning Up Our Rivers, Southeast Asia - Mekong

£813 of £2,500 goal

Raised by 22 people in 3 months
This project is part of a greater effort for awareness and clean up of mismanaged plastic waste across the globe:

-The Mekong is the 10th most plastic contributing river in the world
-Little documentation of the problem in Laos but plenty of evidence from reports in Cambodia and Vietnam on the issue
-I want to document the issue around and either side of "4000 Islands" (coincidentally containing some of the best white water in the world)
-Link up with Plastic Free Cambodia (who I am an ambassador to) in their efforts of educational awareness and clean up along the Mekong and its dependent communities
-Any support, local links and funding towards this effort will be extremely invaluable in the effort to bring about awareness

I have been lucky enough to spend most of my free time kayaking in stunning locations across the world, that would be otherwise inaccessible. Up till now, these locations have been mostly plastic free. However more and more, the plastic pandemic is encroaching into wildernesses. Linked below is an article that I wrote in conjuncture with The Paddler Magazine, outlining this issue on the 10th most plastic contributory river in the world, and my plans for documenting the problem in an alternative way: Tackling the plastic waste problem on the Mekong 

I am aiming to raise money for the early part of 2019. The money raised will go towards the awareness and clean up operation along the Mekong during and after the expedition. Donations will fund the ability to make a larger impact by contributing towards publicity, travel, translators and schemes in local communities to raise awareness and help divert plastic waste to sustainable projects. This should not cost very much due to some work that has been sorted during the trip which will pay for the rest. Once the trip has concluded, the remainder (which will be the majority) will be passed onto Plastic Free Cambodia and Surfers Against Sewage, for their efforts in the clean up effort in Southeast Asia and the UK respectively.

I invite you to join me on my trip, either physically (it does not matter about your kayaking experience as this is only a small part of the overall picture) or by following me on Facebook, Instagram and the articles I shall be writing and be featured in that will be posted across social media. I welcome any sort of support and encourage you to message me on the mentioned platforms for more information.

I will be setting incremental goals that will result in rewards and updates, based on how this page does, both in outreach and amount raised. Keep an eye on this space to keep up to date on the progress of the project.

Together, we can help turn the tide in the plastic pandemic!

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£500 raised, Laos update.

I'm so humbled by the fact we've managed to raise so much money for the campaign and its charities. This will really move mountains, wherever it ends up. Keep sharing the page and lets reach our goal!

Just a quick update before I leave Laos. It has been 3 weeks since I arrived. My initial positive impression of the country and its people hasn’t altered. In fact, the longer I stay here, the more I find myself falling in love with every aspect that this country has to offer.

In essence, Laos is pretty clean. Although they don't have clean water and everywhere sells plastic bottles, There are water containers around and refilling your hard bottle from these is the best method of staying hydrated (which is vital in this country) as it doesn't contribute to your plastic footprint and is usually much cheaper.

When you get bored of water, grab a can of something or a glass bottled beer. The locals are very good at recycling these and actually get paid for it occasionally (there are BeerLao crates full of empty bottles everywhere). Why? Because they don’t burn… That’s right, everything that can be burnt and turned into ash, will be. They don’t have a central landfill for non-recyclables. Instead, they make big piles of rubbish and burn it. I couldn’t comment on if burning your plastic was better or worse than throwing it into the river, but at least it is relatively contained to affecting those close in proximity, rather than contributing to global mismanaged plastic waste (MMPW) problem. I would be very interested in any articles on greenhouse gas contributions and other environmental damage achieved from burning as much plastic as the Laotian people do. Message me if you find any research on this please.

This being said, a bit of rubbish finds its way into the Mekong from Laos and gathers on the banks and in eddies. The majority of rubbish I saw was in the high-density tourist locations, such as below Khone Phapheng. I have seen a lot of good reuse of plastic products as well. From practical uses, like using inflated plastic bottles as lobster cage markers, to decorative use, such as beer crates as flower pots and straw segments as decorative spacers to shell bunting, the Laotians make use of everything that western society considers “rubbish”.

Talking to locals, plastic waste is being talked about in regular conversation and has even begun to make its way into a few of the city schools.

The next step in my project will be to kayak the whole 500km of the Cambodian Mekong, trying to pinpoint where any worthwhile clean up efforts could make a difference. This journey should take me around 10 days, in my white-water kayak, (not at all suited for the type of paddling I will be doing, but more to the style of 4000 Islands where I will start). I will try my best to send a quick daily Instagram update, but with the initial nights camping in the jungle, I have no idea how feasible this will be.
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100 total The Paddler Mag shares, charity and sponsor announcement

Somehow through Facebook and Twitter, my first article, published by the Paddler Mag, has gained 100 shares! I thought now would be a good time who the current charities the money will be going to and who is helping the event along in sponsorship or general publicity.

While out in Southeast Asia I will be working closely with other ambassadors (like myself) of Plastic Free Cambodia (PFC), in bringing awareness and educating people on the effect that their plastic waste has on the rest of the world. PFC is a sole proprietorship in Cambodia. Founder, Sarah Rhodes, moved to Siem Reap in late 2014 where her passion for environmental protection has gradually evolved to make PFC what it is today. I am very excited to meet up with Sarah and the team in person and get my hands dirty, instead of being behind a computer screen. Amazing organization, go check them out: https://plasticfreecambodia.com/

The other charity I'll be raising money for is Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) who operate in the UK. If you want to make a difference by doing a beach or river clean, SAS are the people to get in touch with and their work has drastically changed the British shoreline. This was only possible with the fantastic aid of 35,000 volunteers in their 2018 Big Spring Beach Clean which saw them remove over 63 TONNES of marine plastic pollution and litter from 575 beaches across the UK. Their work ensures domestic and foreign plastic does not stay in our local environment, which would otherwise have a big impact on the ecology of hundred of species, or reach the big oceans where clean up is significantly harder. To get involved in your local community: https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/beach-cleans/

Onto the trip sponsors. An update has already been posted about Stu and VE Paddles but safe to say I wouldn't have got this far without his help and contacts in the paddling industry. The other sponsor is Alpacr, a new and exciting social-networking platform connecting the world through travel and adventure. Hopefully, through the app I will be able to meet like minded people out in SE Asia, who will join me in my work with PFC. Lastly, we have two amazing clubs: Exeter University Canoe Club and Cardiff University Kayak Club whose members are amazingly supportive of the campaign and have really help spread the word. I am very thankful for all the individuals from university and local clubs all over the UK for sharing and helping connect us to people, but I thought EUCC and CUKC needed a special mention. Internationally, my friends over in Colorado have shared my project and I'd like to thank 4 Corners River Sports for being a massive confidence boost and showing me that it is possible to unite as a paddling community in this effort!

Over the last 2 months I have (and will continue to) written blogs and articles for British Canoeing, The Paddler Magazine, University of Exeter Alumni and King's Ely, that have been shared (and hopefully will be continued to do so) by all the organizations I've mentioned.

Cheers everyone for being so supportive and helping me in this world of fundraising and social media that I know nothing about. If you haven't been mentioned here, I still greatly appreciate all that you've done for me and hope you continue to support this effort of mismanaged plastic waste awareness!
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500 campaign views, Team Introduction: Stu

Stu Morris is the founder of VE Paddles (the main supporter of this initiative), a British company driven by elite paddlers with backgrounds in composite engineering and advanced design.

Using this experience and knowledge he has created a new standard in paddles. After an extensive period of research and development by Britain’s finest creeking, freestyle, canoe, SUP and sea kayak paddlers, VE Paddles offer an extensive collection of paddles in various shaft and blade options and sizes, in any length and angle, left or right handed, one piece, two piece, three piece and four piece options - all custom built to ensure that you have the tools to fulfill your paddling potential.

VE offers a personalized service priding itself in the manufacture of lightweight, high performance, strong paddles that optimize power and enhance performance.

Before this, Stu lived in Austria for a number of years, making use of the world class paddling out there, but has since settled down with his wife (who is expecting a baby in February) near Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre, where he is placed in a central location to supply his paddles all over the UK and beyond.

Favourite UK river: Mawddach
Favourite International river: Inns
Weapon of choice: Take a guess
Vessel of choice: Pyranha 9R
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50 GoFundMe campaign shares, Team Introductions: Sam

Hi, my name is Sam Woodcock. I started kayaking 5 years ago whilst undertaking a degree in Adventure Sport Coaching.

Since then, kayaking has become a huge part of my life and lead to a love and passion for white water. This whitewater passion has led to me becoming an International White Water Raft guide spending 3 seasons leading trips on the spectacular alpine rivers in the Austrian Tyrol. I have also spent a season safety kayaking on the river Ganga in India and enjoyed many trips paddling the river Soca in Slovenia.
Currently studying Paramedic science and due to soon qualify as a Paramedic, my river adventures are now often less remote, but just as exhilarating with frequent trips down rivers in Scotland, North Wales and the Lake District. When not kayaking, my spare time is spent mountain biking, skiing and winter mountaineering.

Whilst undertaking my degree in adventure sport I investigated the impact of ‘rubbish’ in the outdoor environment with a module topic in ‘you’ve made your bed: now lie in it’, I bed made and consisting of plastic and rubbish found whilst out and about in the outdoors. Being able to assist in raising the ‘plastic crisis’ awareness is an incredible and exciting opportunity.

Favourite UK river: Etive
Favourite International river: Upper Oetz or something long continuous grade 4
Weapon of choice: VE Creekers (there seems to be a theme here)
Vessel of choice: Waka Tuna
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£813 of £2,500 goal

Raised by 22 people in 3 months
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