If you are a little bit of a skeptic, you may be wondering if all the news about our discarded plastic bottles, bags, and cups floating in the ocean are really mirrored in reality. The experience of record-breaking endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh should put an end to those suspicions. During his 49-day swim of the English Channel, Pugh saw only a few fish, but he did find that every beach he swam by was full of plastic debris washed up by the waves. The swimmer’s story proves once again that just because we cannot see the waste we produce on a daily basis does not mean it disappears!

Pugh’s 560-km (348-mile) swim from Land’s End in Cornwall to Dover in Kent began on July 12th and was completed on August 29th, The Telegraph reports. The swim was part of Pugh’s campaign, The Long Swim, which is aimed at raising awareness about the current conditions of the oceans, especially the threats of climate change, over-fishing, and plastic pollution and their effects on the U.K.’s coastal waters. Pugh is also an environmental campaigner and UN Patron of the Oceans. The 48-year-old swimmer had just up to four hours of sleep a day and swam between six and 12 miles every 24 hours during the undertaking.

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Upon arriving at Shakespeare Beach, the swimmer revealed that he had encountered plastic trash on every beach he saw from Land’s End to Dover. The deeply alarming fish to debris ratio is a reminder of researchers’ estimate that there will be more pieces of plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

“The fish have been replaced with plastic. Those fish that are left are eating microplastics. Once they enter the food chain, we eat them too. Plastic is slowly killing us all,” Pugh said. “The public knows, they care deeply — yet successive government have not only failed to act but have made promises that they have failed to keep. It’s up to us to now hold them to account.”

Finishing the swim, Pugh was greeted on the beach by Environment Secretary Michael Gove. The swimmer emphasized, “now the real work actually begins” and called on the secretary and other countries to commit to caring for the oceans. He also urged Gove to attend the upcoming G7 Summit to allow Britain to lead the charge in protecting the oceans. Pugh wants at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030. Currently, only around four percent is protected.

“I think Lewis is amazing, I think he is a modern day hero. I think everything that he has done is just so inspirational,” Gove said. “The Long Swim has really brought to everyone’s attention how important our seas are and how important it is for all of us to do our bit to protect them, to restore them to health and to make sure this amazing resource is there for future generations.”

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Our disposable plastic waste makes up a huge percent of the plastic that enters the environment. Recycling is an important part of the battle with plastic pollution, but it will not win it on its own – reducing our use of plastics is one of the easiest ways we can help the planet. If you want to know how to start, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!

Image source: Lewis Pugh/Facebook

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