PARTNER FOCUS - Marine Waste Spotlight by Linda Thomas Eco Design

22nd April 2019

I believe it's important to remind ourselves just why we are responsible wedding industry vendors or conscious couples. So over the next few months, I will be introducing articles to the blog which highlight both pressing and less obvious environmental and ethical issues which include, but aren't limited to, the wedding industry alone.

To coincide with Earth Day 2019, the first of these has been contributed to by our partner, Linda Thomas Eco Design; as well as being a talented dress designer, Linda is a dedicated and acclaimed eco-activist. She skilfully combined both of these passions in 3 statement gowns, each exploring the impact of waste plastics on marine life.

The 'Wave of Waste' dress

Marine Waste Spotlight by GREEN UNION partner Linda Thomas Eco DesignIn 2016, I saw an image of a wall made from dumped polystyrene and synthetic fabric covered bodyboards from Devon and Cornwall rescued by Beach Care. It was shocking to find out that 14,000 are dumped in just those beaches every year. They begin their journey 11,000 miles away in China; they snap easily and rarely last one holiday, resulting in a horrifying amount of plastic waste. 

What could I do? I started sketching and consequently got in touch with Beach Care to see what we could do together. Little did I know it was going to involve 100 discarded bodyboards and become 22 metres long!

The key message: buy better, or hire from a surf shop and get a board that is safer, rides better and will last, and it will be better for both yourselves and the environment. Together, we can make a difference so that no one has to surf or swim a wave of waste in the future!

The 'Ghostnet' Dress

Marine Waste Spotlight by GREEN UNION partner Linda Thomas Eco DesignWe have evolved from the sea and we need it to continue to survive and thrive. So does every other creature on Earth, not just the marine animals. Water, the lifeblood of our Planet.

I, like so many others, come across old fishing net during my 2 minute beachcleans. I find little scraps of coloured net tangled amongst seaweed or tangled line and rope caught around rocks. Last year, around the time I launched the Wave of Waste dress, I did a family beachclean and found an enormous piece of fishing ghostnet on the beach. I dragged it back and it sparked the idea of a Ghostnet Dress.

Ghostnet is old fishing net no longer attached to fishing vessels; internationally, 640,000 tonnes of ghostnet is lost each year. In the past, nets were made of natural fibres like coir, but now nylon has become the mainstay. It floats in the sea, often difficult to spot, trapping more and more sea life. Seals, dolphins, turtles, whales and sharks are often caught whilst trying to catch the smaller fish trapped within. Eventually the net can sink from the dead weight and when that biodegrades, the plastic net floats back up and starts the process all over again. This ghost comes back to haunt. Internationally 640,000 tonnes of ghostnet is lost each year.

What do we need to do? Three things: stop more ghostnet entering our oceans, clear up what is already there, and repurpose what comes out. To stop more entering the ocean we must have honest dialogue about the current problem. We need to understand how so much is ending up there and not presume it is all there for the same reason. Look at different types of fishing, areas of fishing, different equipment and port facilities for recycling damaged net. Clearing up needs to be undertaken Internationally and has begun with projects such as the Giant Boom, and many smaller projects. On a personal and local level every single piece of plastic we pick up could be saving an animals life. We can all be part of the 2 minute beachclean community.

The '99 Dead Balloons Float By' Dress

Marine Waste Spotlight by GREEN UNION partner Linda Thomas Eco DesignWe have a problem: Balloons Blow and we need to stop letting them go.  What goes up must come down. I got together with children’s author Ellie Jackson to see if we could help educate as to the dangers of releasing helium balloons for animals on land and sea. Ellie had written a great book and so I thought I’d better make a balloon waste dress, you know how it is…

Balloon waste is such a problem because of both the balloon itself and the ribbon and tags attached. Foil balloons are basically plastic bags with a foil coating, the foil gradually comes off into the sea and then there is a shape that looks like an enormous clear jellyfish. Rubbery balloons (both latex biodegradable types and the other type), break down into lots of strands which closely resemble the tentacles of jellyfish or squid/octopus.

Marine animals, in particular turtles, dolphins and seabirds, ingest these waste balloons. On land, farm animals can also fall prey to this dangerous waste. They can then block the respiratory or digestive tracts. Any animal can get caught up in the twisted plastic ribbons.

Helium is a finite natural resource and it is running out. Doctors organisations have called to ban the sale of helium balloons altogether as helium is such an important element. In some parts of the World, MRI scans had to be stopped due to a lack of helium. Helium is also used in incubators and has lots of scientific uses, from space exploration to chromatography.

The amazing 2 minute beach clean community sent me balloon waste after a shout out on Instagram. With these balloons all in different states of degradation it become all too obvious the danger they then posed. The resemblance to marine life was startling. I then used just organic cotton thread to sew them together and weave them into a dress and a cape. I hope to illustrate with these garments how these balloons end up when they come down and remove some of the mystique surrounding them.

Keep scrolling for a gallery of more images of these beautiful creations!


Wave of Waste

Dress: Linda Thomas Eco Design

Board collecting and organisation: Beach Care of Keep Britain Tidy

Hair: Clair Swinscoe Studio Couture  using Oway UK

Eco Make up: Rebecca Rose Robinson  including Ecostardust eucalyptus glitter

Model: Emma Adams

Venue: Watergate Bay and Watergate Bay Hotel

Photography: Symages Photography


Dress: Linda Thomas Eco Design

Ghostnet Crown: Caroline Bond of Kittie Kipper

Eco Hair: Clair Swinscoe Studio Couture using OWay

Eco Make-up: Rebecca Rose Robinson

Model: Nat Bel 

Ghostnet: Fathoms Free

Photography: Fraser Marchbank

99 Dead Balloons Float By

Dress and Cape: Linda Thomas Eco Design

Models: Ellie Jackson and her daughter from Wild Tribe Heroes

Collection of Balloons: 2 minute beachclean and their Instagram followers (@zedster57, @drdross_the_jambo, @harperandthehound, @NationalTrustRanger, @Glittersocks16, @Teri.browning, @hen_ysgol, @ceejaybythebeach)

Eco Hair by sleeping in old fashioned rags and held in place with Oway UK

Publicity Support: Keep Britain Tidy

Photography: Symages Photography

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