The numbers are scary, you know it. Our goal is not to scare you (we hope that you also know it) but to recall the context in which the 1KG FOR THE PLANET project was born.
10 tons of plastic are produced every second in the world
89 billion plastic bottles of water sold each year (we are just talking about bottles of water)
1 billion non-recyclable straws are thrown daily
Only 9% of these plastics are recyclable
60% of wild animals have disappeared in forty-four years
If nothing changes in our consumption, the mass of plastic in the oceans will exceed the mass of fish in 2050
A 1.6 million square kilometer plastic dump floats in the ocean, about three times the size of France
Fish and seafood consumers ingest up to 11,000 microparticles of plastic each year.
The UN has calculated that if we tie together plastic bags consumed in one hour in the world, we could go around the Earth seven times
What should we do? Do we continue to poison ourselves and destroy our planet or do we react?
Action - Reaction
What are we doing? Since February 2018 we are crossing 17 European countries on foot, from Portugal to Istanbul. Along the way, we collect the garbage up to the equivalent of one kilo before throwing it in a proper bin and do it again. Some days we do not collect anything. Others, we pick up several pounds each.
We are not fooling ourselves, pick up the garbage does not reduce their number. Our action with 1KG FOR THE PLANET has two main objectives:
ensure that the maximum amount of waste is treated correctly, ie enter the recycling circuit when possible
preserve natural areas by limiting the presence of toxic materials (such as plastic) on these sites. It also has the merit of making them more welcoming to future visitors who may think twice before throwing their packet of chips on the floor
1kg is symbolic. We do not carry scales with us, but we can easily imagine the weight of a packet of rice or a milk carton. The idea is to show that if we, long-distance hikers, for whom every gram counts, can make this sacrifice to dedicate 1kg in our bags to clean the trails, many can do it. For us it is also a way to give a little back to those countries that welcome us and to their nature which belongs to us all.
It's a simple gesture, not a revolution. Moreover, we have not invented anything, we put words on what many walkers and nature lovers already do. But put a name and words in order to group our individual actions, give them strength, give them a voice. This community that brings us together certainly makes us feel less alone in this mission that sometimes seems to be impossible. And yet...
How did we do?
Of course, any reusable bag can do the trick, but again, we thought that the feeling of belonging to something bigger could be effective in swelling the ranks of this community.
With the donations received by our association Deux Pas Vers l'Autre (Two Steps Towards Others), we launched the production of 1,000 collection bags from recycled plastic bottles. The bags are accompanied by a carabiner for easy attachment to the backpack and a leaflet explaining the approach.
We have made the decision to distribute these bags for free, only the shipping costs remain the responsibility of the "buyer". Selling these bags could have been a source of income for our association but we wanted to reach as many people as possible. To date, we have distributed about 800 bags, either by mail or to people we met on the way and who felt concerned by the subject. The only thing we ask for in exchange is to help us make the 1KG FOR THE PLANET project live by talking about it and posting photos of their collections. From this point of view, we had great surprises with exceptional contributors but also disappointments with many people we have never heard of afterwards.
1KG FOR THE PLANET is supported by institutions such as the French Hiking Federation, which distributes bags at trade shows or during school trips.
On the field, how is it?
Since our departure from Portugal, we have crossed 12 countries and can already distinguish different realities. Obviously, our feedback is to be qualified by taking into account that we have only covered a "line", a path, in these countries, if we had chosen another route in these same countries, our experience could have been completely different. On the high peaks of the Italian Alps, there is certainly less waste than in agricultural regions of Italy. Also, the season we discovered these countries is important. At the end of August or under 3 meters of snow, we do not see the same thing.
The bad surprise: Portugal. We did not expect that a country so close to ours would be so far behind in terms of environmental awareness. To throw everything out of the window of his car, over there it's the rule!
The best surprise: Slovenia. On the other hand, we did not imagine that this country of the former Yugoslavia was as clean and that the level of education on the subject was so high. Outings in nature and hiking are obvious and it is felt in natural areas.
The biggest frustration: the Balkans in general. Impossible to pick everything up, we regularly meet open dumps along a cliff, in the bed of a river... A real heart-breaker. We often felt pretty dumb with our bags of garbage when we finally found a garbage bin buried under the garbage that would probably never be picked up.
The most stupid thing: dog poop in plastic bags thrown into the wild. No, we are not lying to you... We found it in Switzerland. The most plausible explanation is the fear of being fined for not picking up the dog's droppings when someone looks at them, they pick it up, then throw it away when no one can see them.
Shame: hunters' shotgun cartridges in France. In Hérault, kilos and kilos of plastic cartridges on the ground... No comment.
What is absolutely everywhere: toilet paper and tissues. It's paper so it's natural, we can leave it in nature, they will quickly degrade? NO! They are often full of chemicals to whiten them, make them smell good, and so on. Today paper tissues are treated so as not to decompose easily, just for the stunned who forget them in their pocket and pass them to the washing machine... And we are not even talking about visual pollution.
Our action also involves raising awareness in the countries crossed and on social networks. We have set up the 1KG FOR THE PLANET group on Facebook where the community can share the photos of the collections but also engage the discussion on the subject. On Instagram, the #1kgfortheplanet lists collection photos from around the world.
Whenever possible, especially when language allows it, we like to organize awareness-raising activities in the schools of the countries we visit. We feel that the sooner the awareness begins, the more likely it is to operate.
In three countries, we had the opportunity to present our project on TV: Slovenia, Montenegro and Albania and there will be more! In the Balkans, the subject is hot. For most countries in the region applying to join the EU, the environment is the first blocking point. No real system of collection and treatment of domestic or industrial waste or even medical.
Finally, the best awareness that we can do on a daily basis is to set an example. To carry our bags clearly visible, to collect rubbish under the eyes of the people, in general it appeals and often the conversation engages.
They adopted 1KG FOR THE PLANET
The magic of social networks put us in contact with Nodimages. Gaëtan, Marianne and their children Diego, Noam and Ben left Belgium and are crossing Africa aboard a former fire truck. 1KG FOR THE PLANET seduced them and we managed to send them bags just before they left. We could not imagine a better reward than the video they made.
Candie of the blog Les Géonautrices has just made a documentary on pollution in Nepal and in particular on the trails leading to the Everest base camp. The film is currently being edited and aims to denounce the way in which the roof of the world has been soiled from year to year but also to highlight the actions already underway to clean up this place and hiking trails in General, 1KG FOR THE PLANET is one of them!
Jeanne whose travels you can follow on Voyages sur un petit nuage, travel with a home-made "zero waste" kit that concerns her diet (stainless steel straw, metal cutlery, cloth bags and metal boxes for transporting food) and as her toilet bag. As absolute zero waste in travel is almost mission impossible and that in any case you also find those of others, Jeanne also travels with her 1KG FOR THE PLANET bag.
What about you? When do you start?
Ask for a bag: Instagram, Facebook, email
See you soon!
Marie & Nil