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Mermaids of the month August – Plastpiratene

The two friends Randi Kjærstad Hagerup and Beate Amalie Kjerstad have spent many hours together by the sea, ever since they were children. For the last three years, they have gone by the name “Plastpiratene”, meaning “Plastic pirates”, and they spend their free time picking up treasures such as styrofoam and other plastic residues that washes ashore on their island. They wish to spread awareness around plastic pollution, and on how much we as consumers can change together.

Who are you?

We are two 42 year old ladies, who both live at Lepsøya, a bit north from Ålesund. We have known each other since we were very young, and our families have been neighbors for generations. Even though Randi grew up in the east of Norway, we made a strong foundation for our friendship while spending every vacation together. We used to run around in the shoreline and on the mountains, we played in Viking’s burial mounds and hoisted hay. When we both moved back to Lepsøya four years ago, it felt like we just continued where we left off as kids.

After the “plastic whale” drew ashore at Sotra in the winter of 2017, we decided to do our share of the cleaning. After that first trip, we realized we had to go once more, but since we did not manage to pick up everything that time either, we just kept on coming back. Now here we are three years later, with our pockets filled with styrofoam and other small plastic objects. 

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What are you doing these days? 

We pick up trash regularly on our island. After our first season with beach cleanups, when we removed the biggest objects, we can now see all the small stuff. It is important for us to communicate that even though a place looks clean, it might not be if you look a little closer. We have also made a survey of all the marine waste that comes in on the other island in our group of islands, and it is really interesting to see the differences and similarities in what reaches the shore. To find the source and to stop further pollution has to be in focus, if not it doesn’t help much that we are picking trash. After having picked up 28.5 tonns of waste, we have a pretty good clue of what comes from where. We are also active in the network for marine waste in Sunnmøre, where we find both inspiration to go on, and also a place to let out frustration when a new charge of styrofoam comes with the wind. 

“It is important for us to communicate that even though a place looks clean, it might not be if you look a little closer”

When did the ocean become important for you? What role does the ocean play in your lives?

We have both grown up with relatives who worked with, of and on the sea – the ocean has been the foundation of life for generations back in our families. When you live on an island, everything has a connection with the sea. If you want to go somewhere, you have to take a ferry. If it’s nice weather, you could go for a paddle. If everything seems chaotic and stressful, sitting on a rock close to the shore while watching the ocean is the best remedy. The ocean has consistently been important, even if we haven’t always been aware of it. It is the first thing we look at when we wake up, and the last before we go to bed. Since we were children, we have learned that we have to respect the ocean and be careful. When we have visitors, they always want to join us out at sea. Both young and older children find great joy in visiting our natural “outdoor aquarium”, which is a tidal pool filled with life. No one leaves it with their feet dry! 

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What do you do to take care of the ocean?

We especially try to change our pattern of consumption. It is hard, but we try to be aware on what we buy and use. We wish for lasting clothes, for example made out of wool. We use a washing bag when we wash synthetic clothes, and we don’t mind using almost worn out clothes. We are probably not the most extroverted people who talk the most, but when it comes to plastic in the ocean, we are not able to stop talking.  If people are constantly talking about our plastic problem, maybe it will make people think twice about dropping anything on the ground, or buying a toy wrapped several times in plastic, having been shipped halfway around the world. 

 We have to remember that consumers have a great power. Through our choices we can influence the producers to make better products. We can choose the product with the least packing, only buy bottles that are returnable, and make an honest consideration if we really need that new t-shirt. It was a bit awkward the first time we ordered coffee with our own reusable cups, but not it is totally normal. Everything is a matter of practice. 

 “If people are constantly talking about our plastic problem, maybe it will make people think twice about dropping anything on the ground, or buying a toy wrapped several times in plastic, having been shipped halfway around the world”

What do you think is the biggest challenge we have to solve in order to save the ocean?

The biggest challenge we face is really two-sided: We have to make the people, who are not aware of the extent of the problem, to see what challenges we have to overcome. We also have work to keep the hope up for those who understand our situation, so that they don’t give up. The ocean is a treasure trove, but it does not only exist for the joy of the people. We have to use the words protection and conservation more, and not just production and exploitation. 

 

What are your three #tavahatips to take care of the ocean?

  •   Bring a bag to pick up thrash whenever and wherever you are out walking.
  •   Check the label when you buy new clothes, and think twice about if you really need it.
  •   Talk to people about plastic pollution, so that the problem lies fresh in their mind.

 

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What is your happiest ocean memory?

 Two summers back, the fjord was full of pilot whales. It was absolutely amazing watching the big herd “eat dinner” and then play, jumping and rolling around, while they moved further out in to the fjord. A herd like that proves that we have a healthy ocean with a working eco system – for the time being. Other than that, we have many small, happy moments, like when we are out walking, when the oystercatchers comes back in the spring, eagles flying above us, and hot coffee while sitting by the boathouse wall sheltered from the wind. 

“The ocean is a treasure trove, but it does not only exist for the joy of the people. We have to use the words protection and conservation more, and not just production and exploitation”

Who are your everyday heroes? 

 Everyone who does the “small” things that changes their everyday life. We become so happy when we see people who pick up trash from the ground or when people bring their reusable cup to a café. Sometimes it doesn’t take that big of a change of course to end up somewhere completely different. 

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What would you like to thank the ocean for? 

 Every time we come home and just look out at sea, we lower our shoulders. The ocean is a part of our identity. Living next to the ocean gives a feeling of freedom, and there is always something to do. At the same time it reminds us of the struggles our ancestors have gone through – the ocean makes us both small and big at the same time.