Open water swimmer Imran Luqman shares his concerns about what we swimmers and triathletes put in the ocean: plastic bottles. In every event, clinic or training, so much plastics is used. Are all the plastics really necessary? Read on…
Gone are the days when people’s biggest worry was being exposed to heavy metals and radioactive material. Today, pollution and health concerns stem from an everyday tool for us humans: plastic. There are two issues with the use of single use plastics at events, that is, environmental pollution in the form of visible pollution (littering) and also invisible pollution (microplastics). This is not to mention the hazards of the production and recycling process of plastics itself.
It takes a whopping 450 years for plastics to decompose (WWF). Even worse, plastic bottles not only sink and pollute the ocean floor, but also break down into much smaller pieces to form microplastics. According to oceancrusaders.org, an astonishing two thirds of the world's fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion and about 100,000 marine organisms die from plastic ingestion and entanglement a year. Clearly, plastic bottles are a bane to the environment.
At open water races
During open water swimming competitions, single use plastics feature most prominently in the form of plastic cups and plastic bottles used at feeding points throughout the swim course and at the finishing line. Inevitably, some swimmers will litter these plastic bottles and cups. When the feeding points are mid-course in the open water, some swimmers may not think twice about throwing the used water containers into the ocean or lake, especially when they are racing against the clock. At land feeding points, it may be easier to collect the littered bottles or cups for disposal or recycling, but the sheer waste and issue of single use plastics remain.
Is there a solution? As a swimmer who actively competes in open water swimming competitions, I often contemplate my contribution towards plastic waste and wonder what are the alternatives. Here is one idea.
Bring your own personal water container
By using your own water container(s), you will be able to reuse them at several points pre-race, during the race and after.
However, one may wonder "How will the volunteers know which bottles are whose?" One solution would be to mark the swimmer’s bib number onto their water bottles to avoid confusion. Just as the bib numbers are marked onto each individual participants’ bodies and sometimes, their swimming caps. Another issue that may arise is finding your own water bottle on feeding points at sea/lake. Here is where the volunteers at the feeding points on boats and kayaks can help spot the swimmers by their bib numbers on their body markings or swimming caps and pass them their respective bottle.
In short, purchasing your own reusable water container that fits the purpose and your personal taste, at a reasonable price, is the way to go!
Can you share your ideas? I’m sure together, as an open water swimming community who love the ocean, we’d be able to find and test creative solutions.