A passionate environmental campaigner says “it means so much” to be awarded the money to pay for his next trip to clean marine plastic waste in the Isles of Scilly.

Steve Green, co-founder of Clean Ocean Sailing (COS), made a last-minute application to the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group’s Community Fund in the hope it would help him return to the islands to continue his work to protect the islands’ wildlife from risk of entanglement and ingestion of deadly marine plastic.

“We are constantly struggling to find funding, so to be so generously supported by the Steamship Group means so much to us and enables us to return to those wonderful islands to continue our vital work,” said Steve.

“Our application was delivered by hand just minutes before the office closed on the day of the deadline for applications. We were absolutely delighted to learn that our application for £3,548 was successful.”

In February, 20 volunteers from Clean Ocean Sailing, together with residents from the islands, cleaned up five islands and other beaches, removing marine litter from eight miles of coast.

They collected 39 dumpy bags full of plastic rubbish – more than 19,000 individual pieces – weighing 3,500kg.

The next clean up mission is being organised for autumn this year and again in February 2020.

For the voyages they will be using wooden sailing boats to make the crossing between the Helford River, where the charity is based, and the Isles of Scilly. On the next trip they will be sailing on the 111 year old sailing vessel The Annette.

These boats are former fishing vessels, now suitably converted to accommodate volunteers. The volunteers are students from Falmouth, Cornish residents, and sailors from further away (Finland, Netherlands, France, Czech Republic).

To navigate between the islands, they will be using small dinghies, canoes and kayaks to access the more remote areas of coastline and transport the plastic rubbish back to the main sailing vessel. Gathered plastic is then transported on board the vessel back to mainland.

“All the marine rubbish that we collect is sorted into different categories, weighed and then counted out into individual pieces,” said Monika Hertlova, co-founder of Clean Ocean Sailing. “That way it can be properly recycled. We don’t want any of the rubbish to end up in landfill or in an incinerator.”

Most of the material that was collected back in February was given to the Ocean Recovery Project in Exeter, which runs a recycling program and collaborates with different businesses. One of these businesses was Odyssey Innovation, which makes sea kayaks out of marine plastic.

“Now we are proud to paddle kayaks that are made entirely from the plastic we collected on islands,” said Helen Chadwick, COS volunteer. “We will be taking a few of these kayaks back to Scilly to collect more ocean plastic.”

Sam Hicks, Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company’s Community Fund, said: “We were delighted to support this application. As the whole planet battles the issue of marine plastic, enabling this project to help clean our islands’ coastlines is an excellent use of the Steamship Company community fund.

“By carrying out the task in a bold and unique manner, Clean Ocean Sailing also publicise the wider issue, and I hope inspire more people and organisations to keep up the momentum to keep the seas in Scilly and beyond plastic free.”

The Community Fund has so far awarded more than £60,000 to different projects ranging from a set of new judo mats for a club on St Marys, to a life-saving defibrillator for the Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity in Penzance.

It was first launched in 2016 and is part of an estimated £1 million that the Steamship Group returns to the community every year through subsidised travel for islanders, NHS flights, sponsorships and charitable donations.

Bids to the Community Fund are open to voluntary groups or charities, schools and education establishments, community clubs or societies, and individuals undertaking not-for-profit projects for the benefit of the wider community.

Full details, eligibility criteria and application forms are now available from the Steamship Group’s website. All projects are judged by members of an independent panel.