x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE couple to tour Europe and Asia on anti-plastic drive

Plastic Not So Fantastic campaign will hit 22 countries.

DUBAI // A couple planning to drive through Europe and Asia to urge people to use less plastic are just a month away from taking their message to 22 countries.

David and Theresa Wernery, who are behind the Plastic Not So Fantastic campaign, are set to leave the UAE by the end of next month.

Their adventure will involve driving the entire route, sleeping in a rooftop tent and bathing in a makeshift shower cabin.

"We have been talking about it for so long, it is good to know we will hit the road soon," said Mr Wernery, 35.

The couple announced their plans in June and have since been preparing for the journey, planning their route and modifying their Ford F150 pick-up. They originally planned to drive 160,000 kilometres through more than 50 countries, a voyage that was supposed to take 18 months and would have required shipping the vehicle to various locations.

But their plans have changed after they failed to secure cash sponsorship. They are using their own resources for the trip.

They will now drive the route in stages. Part one will take them through Iran, Azerbeijan, Georgia, Turkey and much of Europe. After visiting Britain, they will drive through Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Ukraine. They will then continue through Russia and Kazakhstan, finishing in Turkmenistan and Iran.

"We will be back here in October," said Mr Wernery.

The couple have been promoting their campaign since leaving their jobs in January. Mr Wernery, a German, was a lawyer, while Mrs Wernery, 28, who is German-British but was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, worked in investment banking. They have been holding lectures on the dangers of plastic litter.

"We are doing two to three presentations a week," said Mr Wernery. Their audiences range from school children and university students to company employees.

For their lectures the couple yse information and props supplied by Mr Wernery's father, Dr Ulrich Wernery, scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai.

Over the years, Dr Wernery has tracked hundreds of domestic and wild animals that have died after eating plastic litter. The plastic calcifies in the animals' stomachs, creating huge lumps that eventually cause a slow and painful death.

At lectures, the couple shows one such lump weighing 35 kilograms found in a cow.

"People are all gobsmacked this is plastic and it has all come from one animal," said Mr Wernery.

He and his wife are also organising a clean-up at a desert site near Dubai with the help of several companies - Volkswagen, the Rotana Hotel Management Corporation and the technology company Siemens - on March 17.

"I am expecting more than 300 people," said Thomas Tapken, area vice president, Dubai and Northern Emirates, for Rotana. "Hopefully after two or three hours we will clean a large area and this will be the first step of showing our commitment to the environment."