We need to talk about swim hats

Today, Greta Thunberg came to Bristol to talk at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate.  Whilst I feel that attending would have been a once in a lifetime experience and opportunity, I decided not to go.  I have two young children and Bristol is only a short train ride away.  Taking them out of school would have been a unique educational experience, however, I feel that the crowds and anxiety it could generate regarding their futures would have made it an unwise choice for us to go.  Instead, today I decided to put my energy into something more practical at a local level.  Today, I am going to focus on swim hats!

This week, Sea & Stream had a request from a swim school to recycle their swim hats as part of our swim hat and goggle amnesty.  The swim school had heard about our recycling scheme where people can send their unwanted swim hats and goggles to us in any condition.  We work in partnership with SwimTayka and Cool Bathing as part of the scheme.  SwimTayka is a charity who teach water stewardship and drowning prevention to disadvantaged children who live near to the worlds waterways.  Cool Bathing, provide high quality silicone hats to swimmers and have creative plans for the hats they receive.  Hats and goggles that cannot be re-purposed will be recycled using specialist recycling company Terracycle.  We are delighted that the amnesty is reaching people and getting people to think about the sustainability of items that they use.  

The swim school who contacted us has different coloured swim hats for each ability stage.  Across their 5 sites, they have 9000 children in their swim school.  Yes 9000!  These 9000 children will each receive a new hat when they go up a stage.  The swim hats are made of silicone (latex is another material often used).  Although silicone is a naturally occurring resource, it requires synthetic and chemical additives to be made into its usable form.  Most curbside recycling schemes do not take silicone, therefore it often ends up in landfill where it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.  In addition to the manufacturing and transportation of the hats to the UK, the recycling of them will also add to their carbon footprint.

It is not only swim schools contacting us.  We have also been contacted by a large outdoor swimming organisation who arrange events with thousands of swimmers taking part.  We are a small company and naively didn’t consider that larger organisations would wish to use us for recycling.  We are very happy to offer the service but feel ultimately, recycling should be the last solution.  We applaud event organisers such as Croyde Ocean Triathlon who have developed a plastic free toolkit for events and hope that others follow suit.

Image by Skeeze

So what can we do?  Instead of seeing Greta today, I am going to sit down and write an information pack which we will offer to leisure centres, swim schools and other organisations who contact us.  The pack will suggest more sustainable solutions reduce the unnecessary use of so many hats.  If your organisation is already doing something to reduce their consumption of swim gear, we would love to hear your ideas!  If you are an organisation who would like to receive the information pack then we would be happy to contact you when we have put something together.  

You can contact us at hello@seaandstream.co.uk