Funding campaign helps turn marine litter into surfing products

The University of Plymouth is supporting a passionate diver and conservationist in his efforts to turn collected marine litter into new and sustainable products.

Rob Thompson, founder of Odyssey Innovation, has launched a crowdfunding campaign which aims to raise funds to scale up the manufacturing of a handplane made entirely of recycled marine plastics.

Being made in the UK, the wrist strap padding on the handplane will be made from recycled, end-of-life wetsuits and the webbing from seat belts and life jackets donated by the RNLI.

By doing this, Odyssey Innovation plans to reuse waste materials which otherwise would have ended up in landfill, incinerated or worse, back in the ocean.

The project is being supported by Acceleration Through Innovation (ATI), a project led by the University and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It assists businesses looking to adopt innovative processes or who aspire to bring a new product or service to market. 

ATI provided Odyssey Innovation with research, design and prototyping expertise, as well as an innovation consultancy grant that assisted with the costs of product design and development.

Working collaboratively with Dynamic Edge Innovation Ltd, as well as undergoing testing with a number of local surfers, Odyssey Innovation then refined and perfected its handplane design to create something that is “designed by surfers, for surfers”.

Rob, who graduated from one of the University’s partner colleges – Cornwall College – in 2007, said:

“It was really important that we came up with a marine recycled product that could be enjoyed by all beachgoers, but also one that was high-end and wouldn’t become yet another piece of plastic that would be left behind on a beach. We’re constantly picking up broken buckets and spades. We don’t want to add to the problem. That’s how we came up with the marine recycled handplane.”


Find out more about Odyssey Innovation's handplane project

Rob has been preserving the Cornish coast from plastic waste since 2014, after establishing a volunteer group called Fathoms Free.

His ongoing work has resulted in the removal of tonnes of marine plastics from in and around Cornwall’s coastline, and led him to set up Odyssey Innovation after he pioneered a process to recycle marine plastics into kayaks. 

He and his volunteers now collect even more ocean plastics from harder to reach coves and inaccessible beaches, which he now plans to turn into a product that has wider market appeal and is both family and ocean friendly.

Rob’s crowdfunding campaign will allow him to begin manufacturing and he hopes the funds generated from additional sales of the product will help sustain his ocean clean-up activities.

Acceleration Through Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ATI)

High value, high impact interventions and intensive business support – that’s what ATI provides for businesses who are ‘innovation ready’ across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Led by the University of Plymouth, ATI is a three-year project designed to reach out to the wider business community and help bring forward innovations that are new to the firm or new to the market, and drive up growth and productivity.

This £3 million project is working in partnership with Cornwall Innovation, taking the concept of the Cornwall Innovation Centres further into the local community.

For SME’s in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

If you are seeking ways to take your business innovation further, ATI has a number of routes to explore your potential and add value to your organisation, offering niche expertise led by recognised specialists and innovation professionals.

We will work with your business to:

  • Develop a culture of innovation across all levels
  • Enable attendance to masterclasses and pop-up innovation centres
  • Connect you with valuable networks across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly