The shocking amount of plastic in his lunch propelled John Ryley of Sky News to tackle our polluted oceans

I love mussels. As well as being a delightfully tactile culinary experience, they instantly conjure up the sights and sounds of childhood.

You know the kind of thing. Seabirds wheeling over the cliffs, waves chasing you up the beach, splashing around in rock pools with a shrimp net, the heat of the sun, the sand between your toes.

It's a Proustian daydream that reflects our communal love affair with one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. An inheritance that lies at the heart of our island history and shared sense of national identity. Passing on that legacy is one of the great joys of parenthood, and it seems like only yesterday that I introduced my own children to its many delights.

Credit: Magdanatka


So imagine my shock when one day last summer while returning to a favourite seaside haunt, my son - currently studying marine biology - fixed me with a querulous smile as, with a contented sigh, I pushed aside the discarded remains of my moules marinière.

"Do you realise what you've just eaten, Dad?" he asked. He didn't bother waiting for a reply. "North Sea mussels contain on average one particle of plastic per gram of tissue. They get it from the seawater which is polluted with plastics from cosmetics, synthetic clothing, packaging, you name it. So you've just eaten around three hundred pieces of plastic in the last 10 minutes. And it's still only lunchtime!"

My son went on to give me a spur-of-the-moment lecture on what he sees as potentially the most dangerous environmental catastrophe confronting his generation. Namely, the whole-scale pollution of the world's oceans.

Here are just a few of his Horrifying Ocean Facts: between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world's oceans every year and can be found everywhere from the poles to the equator, on coastlines, on the sea surface, and on the seafloor.

Plastic makes up 95% of the rubbish in our oceans, mainly in the form of bags, food and drink containers, and fishing equipment; from past studies it is estimated that as many as 90% of the world's seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. And so it went on. By the time he had finished, my plate of discarded shellfish looked about as enticing as yesterday's news.

Credit: Kom Satachandana


It was one spur to Sky's subsequent decision to spearhead a campaign to tackle the overwhelming amount of plastic pollution threatening our seas.

And that's why I am delighted to be able to announce the launch of the Sky Ocean Rescue project, and two days of coverage on the subject on Sky News and all its platforms. It continues our commitment to try to protect the environment that we began with Rainforest Rescue in 2009. which saved one billion trees in the Amazon rainforest.

The new campaign will focus on single-use plastics, those that are used for a matter of minutes and then thrown away. Initially our key focus will be on highlighting single-use plastic household waste - the equivalent of a rubbish truckload is dumped into the ocean every minute.

Plastic bottles are the third most common ocean polluter after cigarettes and food packaging, and the number of plastic bottles washing up on UK beaches rose 43% from 2014 to 2015. Only about half of the plastic bottles are currently collected for recycling, with 35 million plastic bottles sold in Britain every day - a staggering 200 a year for every man, woman and child.

Sky is working to get its own house in order, eliminating disposable plastic in our canteens and running a major internal communications campaign. And we will spend the next two years and beyond helping to find solutions that work for the public in helping them reduce their single-use plastic waste.

The campaign launched on 24 January on Sky News with two days of special coverage from Britain and around the world. At 8pm that evening, Sky Atlantic ran a film, A Plastic Tide, outlining the reasons why as consumers we are all responsible for the impact of our behaviour. The film revealed new unpublished evidence of the risks of plastics to human life and ecosystems.

John Ryley, head of Sky News


We will be promoting the campaign on social media and on the web with a call to action asking people to make a pledge to cut down their plastic consumption. Our colleagues at TG24 are simultaneously launching the same campaign.

We are not alone in our endeavour. France has outlawed plastic cutlery and cups and the UK, along with the US and Canada, is phasing out microbeads - the tiny abrasive balls used in personal care products, cosmetics and domestic cleaning products. An estimated 15-51 trillion microbeads are already adrift in the world's oceans.

It will be a major challenge to put the legacy of pollution we are passing on into reverse, but we owe it to our children and future generations to acknowledge the problem and change our behaviour. I sincerely hope you will join us in taking part by visiting and learning more about the campaign and how you can make a difference.

John Ryley is head of Sky News. Read Sky's original article here.