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Fathoms Free

918. Rob Thompson

Rob Thompson, from Cornwall, combines his passion for conservation with a love of diving.

Rob Thompson

As founder of ‘Fathoms Free’ an environmental organisation focused on removing man-made litter from the sea, Rob was troubled by the thought of the vast quantities of plastic collected by him and his volunteers ending up in landfill. His ‘Paddle for Plastics’ campaign is a pioneering and ambitious plan to make kayaks out of the plastics gathered and then get communities using these kayaks to collect yet more plastic waste. Rob has teamed up with ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ to set up a beach recycling scheme, and since 2014 they have recycled in excess of 20 tonnes of beach waste. After numerous trials, Rob and his team have successfully manufactured a prototype marine plastic body board, and have most recently produced a sea kayak constructed entirely from the debris collected at sea. Rob received his award from his local MP, Steve Double.

Rob is one of five volunteers receiving a Points of Light award to mark World Oceans Day on Friday 8 June, recognising their work to support ocean conservation:


In a personal letter to Rob, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“You have shown remarkable ingenuity in developing a model which will not only collect discarded plastic from the sea, but recycle it so it can be used to collect more debris. Your pioneering work is preserving our seas for future generations.”

Rob said:

“I’m pleased to have won this award. It’s come completely out of the blue. Part of the reason it’s come as such a surprise, I think, is that I don’t really think of what I’m doing as volunteering. To me, it’s all tied in with my leisure time and enjoying being out there working with my friends, doing a lot of volunteer activities. I’m protecting part of the coastline that I love and I’m very lucky to live nearby. For me I’m just doing what comes naturally and the marine plastic issue is something that anybody can engage in, it’s a very simple subject for anyone to get involved with and do their bit.

“It started four years ago with a group of divers doing an underwater clean-up of a cove in Cornwall. We found thousands of pieces of marine plastics. Some people wanted to carry on working, so we ended up setting up a community group to do this. From that we’ve gone on to do beach cleans and awareness events, but also looking at recycling those marine plastics into products. I’ve recently set up ‘Odyssey Innovation’ where I’ll be making several sit-on-top kayaks out of the plastics we gather, which then will be used for cleaning up the oceans.”

Pictured below: Rob with one of his kayaks

Rob Thompson kayak

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The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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