“When people ask me whether I’ve come across large cetaceans or predators during my swims, my answer is that I have mainly encountered suspended plastic waste and floating rubbish. This sad fact has awakened my awareness of the need to start up the Eco-Swimming movement”
“Virtually half the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the past 15 years. About 8 million tons of this material reach our seas and oceans every year. It’s unclear how long it will take for that plastic to completely biodegrade into its constituent molecules. Estimates range from 450 years to never.”
Eco-Swimming or ‘ecological swimming’ involves recreational swimming or snorkelling in open water, taking the opportunity to collect rubbish from the seabed as you follow the route. This mode of non-competitive swimming is usually done in shallow water along the coastline. Due to the physical and logistical limitations of open water swimmers (without self-contained breathing apparatus and with just a watertight buoy to carry what you find), it isn’t always possible for swimmers to pick up all the rubbish they find during a sea swim.
The philosophy behind this movement consists of doing everything in our power as individuals to make it normal to pick up any waste we find on the seabed or floating on the surface and remove it from the sea, and trying to encourage other people, including bathers, to turn this action into a daily habit.
The idea behind Eco-Swimming is to inspire others, get friends involved and encourage community leaders to tackle social and environmental problems to help society build a sustainable lifestyle.
Eco-Swimming or ecological swimming follows the same philosophy and values as Eco-Running or Plogging, which consists of recreational running whilst picking up rubbish you find along the way. Samuel Huber from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the USA is the founder of this movement.
How do you do Eco-Swimming?
1. Remember to always swim with a safety buoy or net bag that allows you to transport any waste you find.
As well as fulfilling the function of visibility and helping with buoyancy if the swimmer is tired, buoys can also be used to transport the waste you find and can carry, as most of them are also watertight bags or have compartments for carrying objects. If you are snorkelling, the best option is using a net bag.
If you don’t take a buoy or a bag with you and you find small plastic items or something that can be carried easily, just put them under your swimming cap or inside your bathing suit.
2. Use the right technical material and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Using a cap, earplugs, goggles, neoprene suit and fins will be a great help when swimming in the open sea; you will feel more secure and will have lower energy expenditure, leaving you more able to pick up any rubbish you find on the seabed or floating on the surface. Whatever the case, you will always have to be aware of your limitations and not take any risks when removing waste from the bottom of the sea.
3. Prepare to handle and touch debris, or pick it up from the seabed.
Depending on the type of waste, collecting or touching rubbish is not a pleasant activity. Remember that 70% of all waste ends up in the sea, and you will therefore come across all kinds of things. But because they have probably been in the water for several days, months or even years, touching them is more hygienic that it would be in other situations.
If there is packaging or cans, you will probably have to empty out the liquid from the inside to make them easier to transport, as long as they don’t contain contaminants like oils or solvents.
4. Try to recycle the rubbish you find.
Removing waste from the bottom of the sea is much harder than simply bending over and picking it up from the ground. So once it is out of the sea, it is important to put each type of rubbish into the correct bin so it can be dealt with properly and, if possible, recycled. By doing this, we stop it from ending up in the sea again.
5. Combine your swims along new routes with swims on your usual routes.
Repeating some of the routes you have already swum will make you realise the impact of your last Eco-Swim. Seeing the results of your efforts is one of the most satisfying parts of this activity. You will become aware of the impact of your actions.
6. DON’T just do it when you’re swimming.
The aim of this movement is to make this habit part of all areas of our lives. Therefore, don’t just pick up rubbish when you are swimming in the sea. You can do it when you’re walking around the city, a park, a track or in the mountains.
7. Don’t keep your finds a secret, share them!
Unfortunately, we can’t be aware of what we can’t see, and we can’t love and protect things we don’t know. This is why it’s important to share the results of your “Eco-Swims” and make them visible. Now you can do it easily and make your actions go viral thanks to social networks. We have created the @ecoswimming account on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with tags or hashtags #EcoSwimming #EcoSnorkelling in order to make these small gestures more traceable.