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22 January 2019

Tim Silverwood - a passionate advocate for protecting our oceans

Growing up in an environmentally friendly household, Tim Silverwood developed a keen interest in sustainability throughout high school and later furthered his environmental pursuits at university and through a career in conservation. Tim spent many years throughout his twenties travelling, but it was a trip around Asia that awakened him to the true impact of plastic pollution and waste. “I was shocked and devastated to witness rivers choking on trash, beaches covered in pollution and waste being dumped directly into mountain streams. I realised that waste and pollution were serious issues and only getting worse, I wanted to do something to turn things around,” says Tim.

An avid surfer, Tim felt compelled to help the ocean he loves so dearly. In 2009, Tim’s desire to change the state of plastic pollution coincidentally lead him to two like-minded people, Amanda Marechal, and Roberta Dixon-Valk. Amanda, a keen surfer, initially came up with the idea of collecting rubbish after each surf and, after consulting with her friend Roberta, a marine ecologist, together they formed the concept of Take 3. After Tim was introduced to the pair in 2009, they decided to officially register and launch the organisation in 2010.

Witnessing pollution and littering made Tim more aware of the disconnect that exists between humankind and the biosphere that sustains us. “Humans have quickly forgotten, or conveniently ignored, the fact that we are living, breathing animals that share a remarkable biome with millions of other living creatures. We are not separate from the natural world; we are part of it. The pollution from single-use plastic and other complex human-made materials marks a key moment when a species, us, is sacrificing life for future generations and countless innocent creatures. I simply can't justify the price we are currently paying in the pursuit of a convenient lifestyle,” says Tim.

Amanda, Roberta, and Tim have always known there was something special about the #take3forthesea action. “It is so simple, catchy and gives anyone, anywhere the opportunity to give back to our spectacular planet,” says Tim. They have seen huge growth in public awareness of the Take 3 message without the need for expensive advertising campaigns or media promotions. While they have directly visited over 150,000 school students and delivered hundreds of community activities, their major impact has been through social media with the Take 3 hashtag (#take3forthesea).

In 2011, Tim joined a three-week expedition to study the accumulation of plastic in the North Pacific Sub-Tropical Gyre, commonly referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. “It was an incredible experience that opened my eyes to the vastness of the ocean and the scale of the plastic pollution pandemic,” Tim recalls. Seeing the problem firsthand motivated Tim and he began building his network of colleagues globally who were similarly committed to addressing the problem. This gave Tim the platform to stand up and demand changes with confidence. “I knew more than ever that change was critical and entirely possible,” he says.

Tim points out that there is no ‘floating island of plastic’ in the North Pacific nor in any of the five major oceanic gyres. “Yes, there are higher levels of plastic gathering in these naturally occurring ocean vortices, but the plastic is still highly dispersed, mostly small, microplastics, and not always on the surface, it descends deep into the water column,” he said. Tim believes the media has largely contributed to the misunderstanding of the ‘garbage patch’ which has resulted in lots of attention to bold plans to clean it up, but Tim says this is not the ‘silver bullet’ answer to the problem. “If we are serious about solving plastic pollution we have to stop the problem at the source. That means addressing our consumption, our waste production, our waste management and the leakage of our waste into the environment and waterways,” he says.

“I have always loved the expression that, we are the people we have been waiting for,” says Tim. “As someone who has been working on this issue for over ten years, I can proudly say that we have come an incredibly long way.” Waste and plastic pollution are now key issues discussed in all sectors of society in countries like Australia, the UK, and many other areas. Tim believes the only reason people are discussing plastic pollution solutions is because people have taken action themselves by liking photos on Instagram, signing petitions, sharing viral videos, watching documentaries, purchasing reusable products and picking up rubbish. “As Dr. Seuss writes in The Lorax, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not,’ " says Tim. “So, whatever you are doing, keep it up, and do a little bit more.”

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.


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