Dhruv Boruah had an encounter while racing a yacht from London to Rio de Janeiro. He and his team came across two turtles tangled in plastic in the middle of the Atlantic. They managed to save the turtles and Boruah’s heart went out to all the other victims of plastic pollution in our oceans.
So when he got back home to London, he put together a bamboo bicycle, put yellow floats on either side, and added a rudder and a pedal-powered propeller to the front. Then, with a fishing net hooked on either side, he began cycling on the city’s rivers and canals collecting plastic waste.
Boruah doesn’t believe that he can singlehandedly get rid of all the plastic in London’s waterways, but he does believe that his contraption will create more dialogue about the issue.
“It’s a great conversation starter, and then I can tell them about my work, the plastic, and how it all starts here in the canals,” Boruah tells CNN while balancing on his bike in London’s Regent’s Canal.
When he’s not “off-road cycling,” as he calls it, Boruah is working with councils, businesses and communities to encourage them to reduce their plastic footprint.
In a past life Boruah was a management consultant, spending 14 hours a day in front of a screen. “But then I asked myself, ‘when was the last time I saw a star? Are my eyes made for the stars or for the screen?'” he says.
Dhruv began his efforts on the River Thames a year ago, and now ventures to other rivers across the country. He cycles to a river with just a backpack and then it takes about 40 minutes to convert his bike into a floating vehicle. He launches on the water to “become like Jesus for a little bit.”
He heads to the waterways every three weeks and enlists the help of others. On one of these clean-up days in Birmingham, Boruah says they collectively retrieved 275 kilograms of plastic, enough to fill a small truck.
Boruah fills his fishing nets with all sorts of single-use plastic, such as stryofoam and water bottles. He says the real danger is when these get broken down into tiny microplastics and get into the air, our seas and the food chain.
“Plastic is now in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat,” he says.
“You have to care because it’s about you, your health, and the health of your children. Why are we destroying this planet for them?”