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Since 1950, the annual production of plastics have increased 200 times to roughly 400 million tonnes, or roughly the mass of 2/3 of the world’s population. High-income countries - predominantly the countries that shop for high end cycling gear and participate in sport cycling - generate the majority of that plastic and roughly 8 million tons of that plastic ends up in waterways. The single largest contributor to plastic production is packaging.

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"Picking up trash on the beach isn’t going to solve this huge problem we face, but it is going to raise awareness. The spectacular site of the beach in contrast to the thrash that was accumulating among the seaweed and other natural oceanic debris, that’s a clear warning.” - Olivia Dillon

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Velocio’s own Olivia Dillon was on the ground during our event and below is a recap of her experience in her own words.

As a result of a recent partnership with the renowned and sustainability focused Klassmark event organizers, Velocio participated in a zero emissions self sufficient gravel adventure from Girona to the coastal area of Pals which is threatened by climate change with rising sea levels. The idea was to scour 6km of a beach and pick up as much plastic as possible and bring to a recycling area.

The day started early with friends from Klassmark and local community minded cyclists full of positive energy and ready for the task ahead. Klassmark knows the best gravel routes in the area from years of organizing cycling and trail running races, so the route was full of hidden gems and a good dose of mud from recent rains. We reached the beach by mid-morning and got set up with natural fibre bags perched on our handlebars to be filled with all the unwanted plastics on the beach. The spectacular site of the beach, Platja dels Pals on the Balearic Sea stood in stark contrast to the thrash that was accumulating among the seaweed and other natural oceanic debris.

We know the reality of the massive danger micro-plastics are causing in the environment but sometimes it can take picking up cue tips, lollipop sticks, bottle caps, styrofoam and tampon applicators to understand the pervasiveness of our mindless consumption. We were a sight to behold, pushing gravel bikes through the sand in bike shoes and even helmets picking up what we could and discussing the items found feeling despondent.

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Towards the end of the beach we got to show off our balance skills by wading through a deep river with bike overhead and a bag of trash precariously held over our shoulders. Another 1km of picking up plastics and then we rode bikes to the recycling area and dumped it all out. We barely made a dent in the amount of plastic on the beach but we did at least find a way to make the tiniest of impacts.

This region like much of Catalunya has a lot of agricultural land and in this coastal area there are many rice producers. We visited a fifth generation rice farmer, Albert who uses a completely ecologically friendly production process from start to finish and described the entire process to us along with all the implications of climate change and rising water levels threatening their livelihood. The rice from Arròs l'Estany de Pals is a notable feature of the home cooking and restaurant dishes served in the area and is above all the ideal rice for the area's most celebrated dishes: l'arròs a la cassola – rice stew.

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There is a better way to face down the issues around plastic and plastic waste than individually picking up pieces. Inspiring the demand for less packaging and waste is a goal for any rider participating in a Klassmark event. Engaging with improvement is a way forward, whether pedaling with the type of joy Olivia and the other event participants share or simply paying attention when the terrain ahead needs more care.

For further insights on plastic waste see more here: plastic pollution.