Libby Bowles doesn't consider herself an activist.

But the UK teacher's worry over the environmental harm caused by single-use plastics was enough to get her on a bamboo bicycle for a wheel-bound global tour.

Having already visited schools across the UK, Australia and Singapore, Bowles has just kicked off a 10,000km, six-month cycling trip around New Zealand to educate Kiwi kids about plastic waste.

London-based Bowles said her eyes were opened to the plight caused by plastic pollution while working in marine conservation for six years.

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"I just became really upset by what I'd seen in the sea and how it affects various animals," she told the Herald from Northland, her current stop.

"It was all very wonderful being underwater and studying these animals, but what was the point if we are actually endangering them by how we are treating the ocean?"

Studies have suggested around eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste go into the planet's oceans each year — equivalent to 16 shopping bags full of plastic for every metre of coastline, excluding Antarctica.

By 2025, humans would be putting enough plastic in the ocean to cover five per cent of the earth's entire surface in clingfilm each year.

Eventually, a pupil in her classroom spurred her into action.

"One of the kids piped up and said, miss, if you love the sea so much and you want to change it, why are you here in the classroom, and why don't you go do something about it?

Between now and April, when she flies out of Queentown, she wanted to visit as many communities as she could - and all on her eye-catching, 14kg bike, which she built from bamboo at a workshop back in the UK. Photo / Supplied
Between now and April, when she flies out of Queentown, she wanted to visit as many communities as she could - and all on her eye-catching, 14kg bike, which she built from bamboo at a workshop back in the UK. Photo / Supplied

"I felt like, oh my god, you've hit the nail on the head, and anything that came out of my mouth just sounded like an excuse ... so I just thought, it really is that simple, let's do it."

Between now and April, when she flies out of Queenstown, she wanted to visit as many communities as she could — and all on her eye-catching 14kg bike, which she built from bamboo at a workshop back in the UK.

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"I'm feeling a bit puffed after every hill, but I just stop after each one, have a rest, and hope it will get a tiny bit easier."

On her school visits, she tried to inspire children to make a difference by reducing the amount of plastics they were using, changing the way they disposed of them, and cleaning up litter where they found it.

After speaking at one Auckland school, she was happily inundated with pictures of kids collecting rubbish from their local beach, which had been assigned as a homework task.

"As a primary school teacher, I've always tried to empower children to believe in themselves and know that they've got a lot of power — and that they can make the changes that they want to see in the world."

• Communities keen to be part of Libby Bowles' tour can contact her at libby@treadlighter.org