Beach cleans tackle plastic pollution through education and activities

Charity representatives and organisers attribute rising interest in beach cleans to media attention on plastic pollution

Local beach cleans are experiencing a huge surge in popularity with many putting this down to an increase in media attention surrounding ocean plastic pollution.

Sharon Kirkby,  a beach clean organiser and activist for Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) said they had ”seen numbers swell due to the increased media attention and due to the work by volunteers who run events throughout the year.”

Alone SAS have organised over 1775 events over the past 8 years with beach cleans being the most popular way to get involved. The majority of beach cleans often take place in the spring after coastlines have been battered by winter winds and swells. This sees lots of plastic debris washed up on shore.

Miss Kirkby said ”Local beach cleans reconnect people with their environment.  When children attend the beach cleans they learn about sea life as well as the impact of what we buy and dispose of because they can see it and feel it.” She continued ”people of all ages should be educated on any subject matter which negatively affects themselves and future generations.”

A photograph of Sharon Elizabeth Kirkby, Surfers Against Sewage activist and beach clean organiser.
Beach clean organisers like Sharon Kirkby educate people of all ages on the damage single use plastics do to the environment.

This sort of education appears to be working, as petitions centred around plastic pollution have gained traction and received signatures from all age groups. Marks and Spencer have recently pledged to remove single-use plastic cutlery from their stores following a petition from 15 year old Oscar Glancy.

Making changes to save the planet

The UK’s coastlines are some of the most beautiful in the world but we still see plastic pollution like that of anywhere else. There are many changes that can be made in everyday life that can help reduce a persons plastic footprint.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), along with multiple other organisations have lists upon lists of small changes that people can make. According to the WWF website ”Plastic bottles are one of the most frequently found items on beach cleans globally” so buying a reusable one is a brilliant way to stop contributing to damaging the planet.

Miss Kirkby said ”Work towards becoming a conscious consumer and before you give money for anything check that it hasn’t and will not negatively affect others or the planet.”

A photograph of some plastic debris found on St Bees Beach, Cumbria.
Single-use plastics end up in ocean from landfills and through other means. They often end up washed up on the coast or sink to the ocean floor.

There has already been around 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic produced since the 1950’s according to Earth Day Network and every day there are 500 million plastic straws used in the USA alone. That’s enough straws to circle the entire world. Twice.

This unfathomable amount of plastic enters our environment daily, Miss Kirkby said ”as consumers we can make daily choices which will curtail this problem whilst waiting for government regulation to be passed and for manufacturers to make changes”

Plastic is so prominent in every day life that it would be impossible to remove it completely. However, educating people on the topic through beach cleans is a good place to start.


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