Washing Maschines as a Source of Microplastics?!3. May 2023
Water: human right or economic-good?22. May 2023
Oleg Zernikel - German pole vault champion, ninth at his Olympic debut in Tokyo and ... Employee at Wasser 3.0
Who are you, how old are you, what do you do full-time, and what about Wasser 3.0? How long have you been on board? What can you expect from us? What should not happen under any circumstances?
My name is Oleg Zernikel. I was born in Kazakhstan and am 27 years old. I have been a pole-vaulter for more than 14 years and have already celebrated several international successes. I have been able to call myself a professional athlete for the last three years. Pole vaulting is a competitive sport from the very beginning. There are no separations during a career. Joining the German Armed Forces enabled me to make my activity more of a professional sport and to practice pole vaulting as a "profession".
At Wasser 3.0, I have been employed as a research assistant since January 2023. I am very curious about the processes and experiments that I can experience or have already experienced and am very happy to be a part of something good!
Why are you studying environmental sciences? And how do you reconcile that with your sport?
I have always been interested in science in general. The sciences offer me so much insight into w what is unknown and new, and my curiosity will always remain. This is also why I am pursuing my studies in Environmental Sciences.
My studies can be combined very well with my training and competition times. This is very advantageous for me and gives me enough space and time to be able to do all my activities. However, this unfortunately also means that I will need significantly more time to complete my studies.
What role does the environment play in your sport?
I travel a lot because of my sport, which is a disadvantage for the environment. I take part in up to 20 competitions a year, which of course don't only take place in Germany. On top of that, there are many training trips. My primary means of transport is my own car, as I also have to transport my own vaulting poles. Unfortunately, this all has a negative impact on CO2 emissions. Due to my daily training, washing my sportswear also makes a small, negative contribution to environmental pollution.
The standard in athletics is also the synthetic track (tartan). Without it, it is impossible for me to reach or even exceed my athletic limits and goals. The pole vault mat, which is essentially made of foam, is unfortunately also part of this. The poles are made of carbon and/or glass fiber. Fortunately, these can be used for several years.
I am aware that I pollute the environment by practicing my sport, especially at the intensity required at a professional level. That's why every day I try to avoid things or actions that unnecessarily pollute the environment.
How do you feel about clean water? What role does this aspect play in your life, to stand up for it?
For me as an athlete, clean water is an important part of my activities and my healthy lifestyle. Personally I view clean water as a synonym for clean sport. By this, I mean a clean sport free of doping.
Almost all competitions offer water exclusively in plastic bottles. But it is important for me to know that these bottles also contain microplastics. I am convinced that the maximum performance level of a body decreases if it is exposed to such negative stresses in the long term. And what long-term health consequences may result remains to be seen. In my opinion, it could become difficult for all future generations to consume clean, microplastic-free water - even independent of competitive sports.
Have you ever dealt with microplastics?
Yes, and I deal with it again and again, more and more. For me, this issue has become very prominent. Through my travel-intensive sport, I have already seen many cities, beaches and seas that are incredibly polluted. I always realize how everything is connected and I think about it.
As part of my studies, I voluntarily gave a lecture on microplastics and found it extremely remarkable to experience how many of my fellow students were not aware of this problem. This was an “aha” experience and at the same time an incentive to learn more about this issue and to do something about it.
Where do you see sources of microplastics entering the environment (household, car, textiles, etc.)?
Referring to my answer on the importance of the environment, here are some more concrete examples:
- Travel or driving intensity: The number one means of transport and main source of microplastics in the environment is my own car (car tire abrasion, bitumen abrasion, asphalt abrasion, road markings).
- Washing of sportswear: Fiber abrasion during textile washing
- Training and athletics events: Abrasion of shoe soles, drifts on the synthetic running tracks
What are you doing to reduce your microplastic footprint (it's the small steps :-))?
I try to reduce the use of my private car to a strictly necessary level. I enjoy cycling short distances. Even when it rains, snows or hails. In addition, I try to optimize my washing processes. I therefore always try to fill my washing machine before the laundry is washed. I haven't bought my drinking water from the grocery store for years. In the meantime, I drive to a nearby water source and fill up my monthly water supply there. And I consistently separate my waste - unfortunately not everyone does that. It starts with the right sorting. It feels like most people just throw everything into the residual waste, and I consistently try to avoid that.
Do you see parallels between pole vaulting and our mission - water without microplastics and micropollutants?
Definitely. As a classic image comparison: competitive sport in general and pole vaulting specifically is more like running a marathon than a sprint. In addition to a basic talent for the sport, you need motivation, ambition, perseverance, meticulousness, resistance to crises and, above all, fun to achieve your sporting goals again and again and to improve on them. In my opinion, this also seems to be the case with Wasser 3.0.
I also see parallels when it comes to sponsorship and financial support. Pole vaulting is not the focus of a broad public, and it is incredibly difficult for me as a professional in a marginal sport to draw attention to myself and thus win sponsors. What is needed here are qualities of acceptance, perseverance, and creativity. From what I have seen so far in this context with Wasser 3.0, the situation there is comparable: Water without microplastics and micropollutants is the pole vaulting of environmental protection.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We all want to live long, healthy, and happy lives. Many of us start families and have children. Through our ignorance our selfishness, we are slowly but surely destroying our lives and the lives of our future generations. Perhaps even life as a whole?