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Protestor plans 9000 km swim through plastic -

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ELEANOR HALL: He admits he's mad but swimmer and environmentalist, Richard Pain, says Nick Minchin
and Tony Abbott made him angry enough to take on an unusual challenge.

The 45-year-old is in training for a 9,000 kilometre swim across the Pacific from Japan to
California to highlight the problems of pollution and climate change.

And his course will take him straight through what's known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a
mass of plastic junk that is almost the size of the Northern Territory.

Richard Pain spoke to Alison Caldwell about his plan.

RICHARD PAIN: Yeah, I have had it said in the past I am a bit crazy. I saw a film called 'Big River
Man' about a man called Martin Strel who swam down the Amazon, that is 5,500 kilometres. He
inspired me.

And then recent actions by Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott have got me very fired up but everybody has
just got to do something so this is what I figure I can do.

My plan is to build a giant recycled plastic water bottle out of thousands of smaller recycled
plastic water bottles and then use that as an enclosure or a shark cage to then swim from
essentially from Japan to America through what is called the North Pacific Gyre or the Great
Pacific Garbage Patch.

It is an area, some estimates vary but yeah, an area at least the size of Texas that is full of
plastic - plastic of all sizes down to about a depth of six metres so it is an environmental
catastrophe.

ALISON CALDWELL: Where does this plastic come from?

RICHARD PAIN: They think a significant source of it is stuff that is thrown off ships. Basically
there are four currents in that area of the Pacific that circulate in a clockwise direction and
they aggregate all this plastic into this central area, this becalmed area called the Gyre and also
a lot of land based plastic.

A lot of what is in there are called nurdles which are very small plastic raw materials for all
plastics and they blow off the land in their billions and end up in the gyre in the Pacific.

ALISON CALDWELL: There would have to be a lot of contaminants in there, wouldn't there?

RICHARD PAIN: Yeah, that is one of the major problems. There are two major issues here. One is that
obviously the sea life like the seabirds and the bigger mammals are eating this stuff. It is
killing them.

Also, plastic doesn't biodegrade. It only photo degrades so no matter how small those things break
down to, they are still at a molecular level, they are still plastic and those plastics are
actually they are like, they absorb toxins, persistent organic pollutants and PCPs which we know
are contributors to cancer and a whole range of health issues.

So they are sort of concentrated in this plastic which is then eaten or absorbed by salps and
jellyfish and then it moves into the food chain.

My initial research suggests that sure these things are, they sop up a lot of PCPs and POPs but in
it, of themselves they are easily inert so if you don't ingest them, you're okay.

ALISON CALDWELL: What sort of precautions will you take to protect yourself against the chemicals,
the contaminants?

RICHARD PAIN: I'll be inside the bottle. It is going to be basically open at both ends so the water
can float through it. I am going to be wearing a smooth skin which is like a swim skin that you use
for ocean swimming.

I will probably have some sort of breathing apparatus, it may be a mono-snorkel or it may be
something more elaborate obviously ear plugs and a cap.

ALISON CALDWELL: Why do you want to do this?

RICHARD PAIN: Everybody has to do something. If I can do this something this mad, everybody else
can do something. It is also very important to combat the green fatigue that I think is reasonably
prevalent in the general population.

It is an attempt to make a more compelling call to arms for people. It is really like an
environmental version of 'Supersize Me'. I hope not literally.

ELEANOR HALL: That is swimmer, environmentalist and filmmaker Richard Pain, speaking to Alison
Caldwell about his planned 9,000 kilometre swim.