- Title: All washed up: furloughed Londoner finds fortune in the Thames
- Date: 28th June 2021
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JUNE 24, 2021) (REUTERS) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, COMBING BANKS OF THE RIVER THAMES FOR WASHED-UP PLASTIC WASTE / BLATHWAYT PUTTING WASTE IN RUBBISH BAG BLATHWAYT WALKING BLATHWAYT PICKING BUTTON OUT OF SAND (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "Hi, I'm Flora, and I make cards with plastic that I find washed up on the River Thames." (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: (WHILE HOLDING ITEMS COLLECTED FROM THE RIVERBANK / INCLUDES VARIOUS SHOTS) "The usual culprits - cable ties. These are like builders', I don't know how these end up in the Thames, and then straws. I'm always finding plastic straws. This little bottle cap." (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "I went to an event for World Rivers Day just before all the lockdown, pandemic started, and it was from there that I was so amazed at all the sort of plastic and the micro-plastic that we were picking up on this beach cleanup event. And I took a few bits - the colourful bits - home and made a card for my sister. And then when I moved to this new area, I made cards for all my neighbours, when we all went into a lockdown, and I sent them cards being like, 'I'm not shielding, if you want any help, I'm here.' And they were all the first washed up cards, and some of my neighbours were like 'these are amazing, you should start selling these'." RIVER THAMES WITH CANARY WHARF BUSINESS DISTRICT IN THE BACKGROUND BLATHWAYT COMBING RIVERBANK (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "I can't get out to the countryside where I love spending time because we've been stuck in London, so the Thames has become a sort of lovely sanctuary for me and going out and doing something positive while you're there, yeah, it makes you feel doubly good." BLATHWAYT COMBING RIVERBANK BLATHWAYT HOLDING A RED PLASTIC RING (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: (WHILE HOLDING RED PLASTIC RING) "This is some sort of red casing, like from a bottle cap, but I love the colour and it's a good, sturdy plastic, which I'll either use, maybe some big wheel, a big tractor's wheel, or chop it up into bits on the cards. But yeah, definitely find of the day." (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "So when I go down to the beach, I never know what I'm going to find. My eyes begin to get tuned in - it's quite meditative - to like finding those little gems, those treasures; something colourful, a sequin, like something gold or sparkly. You'd be surprised to see how many little treasures you find. So those are the gold bits, which I love putting on the card because I want the cards to look nice." VARIOUS OF BLATHWAYT SORTING AND CLEANING THE RECOVERED PLASTIC ITEMS IN BOWL ON HER BALCONY BLATHWAYT SITTING DOWN TO MAKE A CARD WITH RECOVERED PLASTIC BLATHWAYT USING A PLASTIC RING TO FORM A BALLOON CARD / BLATHWAYT WRITING WHERE THE RECOVERED PLASTIC WAS FOUND ON THE BACK OF THE CARD (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "I want the whole process to be as sustainable as possible. See, the purpose and the plastic is the message that I want to get out there. That's like the number one thing, but the card I use is a recycled card - the company, the supplier I use; all my packaging is upcycled. And yeah, just trying to always think of how I can use what's already out there so that I'm not creating more impact myself by doing this business, which yeah is an important factor." BLATHWAYT'S CARDS LAID OUT CARD FEATURING A SHEEP WITH TEXT READING (English): "EWE ARE THE BEST" CARDS WITH RECOVERED PLASTIC ON THE FRONT GREEN BOTTLE TOP FORMING A BALLOON ON CARD PENGUIN ON FRONT OF CARD (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "Back in June (2020), when I got my first cards on sale, I was selling honestly like no more than five a week. And last month after a surge, I was making like 4,000 cards over every week. So, I mean, that was big for me. That was huge." CARD FEATURING SHEEP SURROUNDED BY RECOVERED PLASTIC ITEMS RECOVERED PLASTIC ITEMS IN TRAY CRAFT MATERIALS IN BOXES (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "I think the way forward will be people making things and starting businesses which don't have so much impact on the environment, whether it's reusing something, whether it's upcycling something, whether it's making something from waste. I think that's the way forward. So I hope people are going to do more and more - and they are. I'm by no means the first." VARIOUS OF BLATHWAYT LOOKING THROUGH BAG AND CONTAINERS HOLDING RECOVERED PLASTIC (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: "I'd seen documentaries, like David Attenborough documentaries. I had read about plastic pollution, but I guess when I first started beach cleaning and seeing it for myself, it hits home more and I think you see the scale of it. You root through loads of seaweed or through the sand and you're just like 'there's so much here.' And this is just one patch. You know, we've got this problem around the world. It's massive and we need a big change from the top. I also think people doing things like this - and I'm sure far more wonderful, impactful things - we need a bit of both. And yeah, I hope people start to really wake up to this problem." VARIOUS OF BLATHWAYT WALKING DOWN RIVER BANK, LOCATING PLASTIC ITEMS AND PUTTING THEM IN RUBBISH BAG (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDON RESIDENT, FLORA BLATHWAYT, SAYING: (HOLDING PIECES OF PLASTIC IN HER HAND) "I think that's the main thing, sort of the takeaway, is you often think it's going to be big bits of plastic, but down here it's like the micro-plastic, the smaller bits, which are obviously really bad for wildlife and fish can think they are food, and birds, and stuff like that. So, I mean, I'm hardly making a difference, but it's something."
- Embargoed: 12th July 2021 07:46
- Keywords: Flora Blathwayt London resident business cards micro-plastic plastic plastic-decorated cards recycling river thames rubbish upcycling waste
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Pollution,Environment,Europe,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA001EIX3F47
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Furloughed from her job and confined to London by coronavirus lockdowns, Flora Blathwayt founded a business based on rubbish she retrieves from the muddy banks of the River Thames.
Just over a year after she was struck by the colourful pieces of plastic she collected as part of a river clean-up, the 34-year-old makes and sells thousands of greetings cards decorated with them each week.
When she moved to Peckham in south-east London, she sent a batch of plastic-decorated cards to nearby residents offering help if they were staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"They were all the first washed-up cards," she said. "Some of my neighbours were like 'these are amazing, you should start selling these'," she told Reuters.
She now works on the cards alongside a part-time job for a company selling packaging made from seaweed, which she joined after being furloughed by, and then made redundant from, a business that makes sauces from unwanted fruit and vegetables.
A geography graduate, she had no formal art training but enjoys being outside and finding new potential in old buttons or plastic straws while cleaning the river bank for a local environmental charity.
She now produces hundreds of cards a week, although last month she made several thousand cards to meet a surge in orders after her story appeared in British media.
She sees her success as part of a wider movement.
"I think the way forward will be people making things and starting businesses which don't have so much impact on the environment, whether it's reusing something, whether it's upcycling something, whether it's making something from waste. I think that's the way forward," she said.
"So I hope people are going to do more and more - and they are. I'm by no means the first."
(Production: Will Russell, Ben Dangerfield, Jonathan Shenfield)
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