Ohelo | Environmental
How to organise a beach clean up
The deluge of plastics piling up on our planet is a real problem. The plastic pollution nightmare is only getting worse with time, and while we try to stem the tide with reusable plastic free alternatives, we also need to look at what we can do in our own communities to reverse the negative impact we have had on our environment.
The causes of plastic pollution
Each year a whopping 5 to 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean. This plastic has a range of sources: single use plastic water bottles that are used once then thrown away, plastic food wrap that is used to make life more convenient, discarded fishing nets from the fishing industry. It all adds up.
It is thought that the amount of plastic consumed and discarded is expected to double by 2030 – not a good thought.
Plastic never fully degrades. Instead becoming microplastics over hundreds of years. The problem is so great now that microplastics have been found in the most remote locations on the planet, including the artic ice shelf. It has even been found in the air we breath and human blood.
It is also well documented that ocean wildlife will eat plastics, mistaking them for a food source. Sea turtles were among the 1st creatures to be seen to have eaten plastics. It is thought that 52% of all sea turtles now have some plastics in their stomachs, with this figure rising to 100% off the coast of Brazil. Sadly eating a single piece of plastic gives a 22% chance of dying in sea turtles. Then there are the cases of entanglement, where creatures get caught up in this plastic debris floating in the ocean.
Replacements for traditional oil-based plastics such as bioplastics may not be any better, with many bioplastics and compostable plastics having the same problems as the traditional single use plastics they are replacing. They need specialist treatment to break them down. Even then they don’t fully break down.
We need to reduce our use of plastics. We need to remove the plastics that have found their way into our natural environments.
Time for community action
One way we can all work together to try and improve the current state of our oceans (and countryside environments for the same reason) is to organise a community clean up. Taking matters into our own hands, getting a great group of local people together and removing these plastics from places they don’t belong. Together we can make a difference.
A great way of doing this is by taking part in a local beach clean. Whether it is 30mins, an hour or longer, joining a community group to remove some of this plastic waste from our beaches. Want to see if there is a group clean organised for your area? Surfers Against Sewage have an interactive map that allows you to find current beach cleans that are arranged. Check it out, find the one closest to you and join in. It couldn’t be simpler. Local councils may also have notices of cleans in your area – so its always worth a quick google!
Can’t find one close to you? Maybe its time to arrange your own!
Follow our top tips for arranging your own beach cleanup
🔵 Let the land owner / council know what you are planning. Always a good idea to send an email and notify them of your plans to clean up an area. They may even arrange some handy bins for you to properly dispose of the items you clear.
🔵 Gather your supplies. When hosting a clean it is a good idea to have some basics you can provide to everyone who shows up. These may include gloves, reusable sacks/buckets/containers, hand sanitizer etc
🔵 Register your clean with Surfers Against Sewage. Join their million mile clean, which aims to gather 1 million volunteers to clean 10 million miles of beach by 2030. Registering with them helps them in their target and they will supply you with a clean kit for up to 30 people. By registering with them you will also be covered by their public liability insurance
🔵 Plan what to do with what you find. Anything that is recyclable should be recycled in the appropriate manner. Maybe you find things that can be upcycled. Maybe you find something weird and wonderful. Once all those things have been separated the rest needs to be properly disposed of.
🔵 Get people to join your clean. If you register on Surfers Against Sewage million mile clean, your clean will be included on their interactive map for people to find. But you can get so many groups engaged with cleans. Work team? Sports team? Library group? Lifelong friends that also want to make a difference.
🔵 Record what you find. If you register your clean, whether with Surfers Against Sewage or another organisation fighting plastic pollution, make sure to send this data their way – it helps them get the bigger picture of exactly what the main polluters are, which in turn allows more pressure to be placed further up the chain to try and stem the flow of these plastics in the first place.
🔵 Stay safe. Wear appropriate clothing. Wear gloves. If its sunny out then sunscreen and hats are a must. Don’t pick up any hazardous finds (needles, dead animals etc). Check tide times and be careful on uneven surfaces. If you are going to have a group with you, think about taking a small first aid kit to allow you to properly treat any cuts or grazes that may happen on the day.
🔵 Stay hydrated. Remember to take your reusable water bottle filled with water or your favourite drink to keep you nice and juicy out there. An Ohelo bottle will keep drinks hot for 12 hours or cold for 24+ hours – so whatever the season you can be sure to stay properly hydrated.
🔵 Take Photos. Capture the good that you have done and share with your local community. Take pride in making a positive difference. Sharing images like these can also help inspire others to do similar things – which has to be a good thing.
Can’t find a clean near you, but don’t want to organise a big group clean yourself? Why not do your own clean the next time you are out in the great outdoors. Take some gloves and a reusable bag with you on your next dog walk and pick up any plastic waste until your bag is full. Imagine if everyone did this just once a week – it all adds up! Even data from single person cleans is welcome to organisations trying to get statistics on the plastic problem – so let them know what you found!
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