Underfall Yard Volunteer Writer Izzie Compton explores the work of a very special boat

A crowd gathered outside the Underfall Yard Visitor Centre on 21st May to celebrate the arrival in Bristol of the ‘Poly-Roger’. The punt, made from 99% recycled plastic, is one of three touring the UK in an effort to bring the problem of plastic pollution closer to those in cities. In light of the climate crisis, uniting communities in the fight against pollution is essential in inner cities.

Poly Roger web

The Poly Roger at Underfall Yard

Created by Hubbub, an environmental charity, the punts are part of the ‘Plastic Fishing Tour’. The campaign aims to raise awareness of how we can adapt our everyday lives to address the issue of plastic pollution. Hubbub, who were responsible for the ‘Refill Bristol’ campaign, teamed up with several local organisations and volunteers who nominated their city to take part in the ‘Plastic Fishing Tour’. Bristol Waste, Bristol Adventure Sea Cadets, City to Sea, Bristol Harbour Authority and Sustainable Hive all worked together to make this venture a reality. Each organisation has been working closely with school groups, businesses and communities, especially those further from the sea, to raise awareness of the consequences of plastic pollution and highlight simple ways to live sustainably.

The innovative and highly sustainable design of the punt was developed by expert boat-builder Mark Edwards MBE, who also designed the Queen’s Royal Barge, Gloriana. The vessel is a display of traditional boat building methods in unison with a modern, environmentally conscientious material. Plaswood, an alternative to wood, is made entirely using single-use plastic, which in this instance has been fished from the river Thames.

The tour began in April with a clear up of Manchester’s waterways, before moving on to Scotland in early May. The final stops on the tour were Bristol and Birmingham, where groups of children, businesses and the public set sail on the waters to rid them of plastic. Each of the cities nominated is competing to win a punt for future use. Hubbub partnered with the Daily Mirror to host this competition with funds to create the boat collected from Starbucks’ nationwide 5p charge on paper cups. At the end of the tour, the city in which the campaign has made the biggest impact will get the chance to use the boat on a more permanent basis.

The ‘Poly-Roger’, upon its visit to Bristol, was serenaded into the waters with a stunning and moving performance from Horfield Primary School Choir. A song written by them, ‘Our Song of the Sea’, put the ecological crisis into perspective, with the main advocates for change being the younger generations who have played a large part in recent protests.

Poly Roger launch event

Pupils from Horfield Primary School sing Our Song of the Sea at the launch event for the Poly Roger at Underfall Yard.

The choir’s performance was followed by speeches from representatives of each organisation involved, with each presenter displaying a fiery passion for the problem of plastic pollution to be addressed. Gavin Ellis, Co-founder and Director of Hubbub, said: “The pictures we’ve received from all over the country have shown how widespread the problem of plastic pollution is and it’s clear there is a strong desire from the public to help keep their local areas clean and safe for wildlife.” It was evident, even before the punt had launched, that this campaign had excited and enthused Bristol, and, with action, we can hope for a greener future for Bristol.