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National Clean Beaches Week

 

What is National Clean Beach week and why is it important?

Humans have been having a detrimental impact on the ocean’s ecosystem for hundreds of years with plastics, toxic waste, oil spills and more. Our land-based litter can be found in rivers, lakes, oceans and washed up on our beaches. The volume of ocean litter is staggering. It is affecting the health of ocean ecosystems, wildlife, people, and local economies.

We have all seen pictures of aluminium can plastic rings strangling seals and turtles, and birds with their beaks caught in discarded razors or feeding plastic to their babies. Every day the rubbish in the water and on our beaches can be ingested by wildlife and entangle animals with deadly consequences. Once in the ocean, plastic acts like a chemical sponge, attracting pollutants and toxins to its surface. This makes each piece of litter even more dangerous for marine life, with each one carrying concentrated levels of the ocean pollution it floats in.

Unsurprisingly, plastic has been found in 59% of seabirds such as albatross and pelicans, in 100% of sea turtle species, and more than 25% of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world. (1)

How important are our beaches?

Beaches provide an important barrier from high winds and bad weather, protecting all our coastal communities. Perhaps just as importantly, they provide a place for us to relax, feel the warm sun on our faces, the sand between our toes and make memories with our families.

A study conducted by BlueHealth researchers at the University of Exeter and published in the journal Marine Policy, found that approximately 271 million recreational visits are made to coasts and beaches each year in England. In the US it is estimated that 180 million Americans make 2 billion trips to the beach annually.

Imagine if every person picked up just one bucket or one bag of beach litter.

Clean Beaches Week

Clean Beaches Week is an annual event in the US which began in 2003 running from 1st to 7th July, aiming to increase awareness of the importance of our beaches and to encourage action. Without awareness or action, the oceans of the world would become polluted water that cannot sustain life. This will affect the rivers and lakes, and in turn, threaten the foundation of human life. (2)

What is beach litter?

Beach litter is anything which would not naturally occur in the sea or be found naturally on a beach, including.

  1. parts of fishing nets or fishing line
  2. all items of plastic
  3. old clothing or shoes
  4. cigarette ends
  5. plastic nurdles

Here is an example of beach litter we collected in September 2020.

How can I get involved?

You don't need to join an organised group or register anywhere (unless you want to). During the week 1st -7th July, there will be organised events all over the US, but you can help even if you don't live near the beach, more on that in a moment.

What do I need to take with me?

A bucket or a bin bag is ideal. Most of the items we find at the beach cannot be recycled, therefore anything you collect can be popped straight into your roadside collection bin at home. Aside from being a little sandy, items are not very dirty either. Most have likely been floating and tumbling in the surf for some time and are easily collected with bare hands, but we would always advise wearing or carrying a pair of gloves.

You should always wash your hands after collecting beach litter.

Getting involved if you don't live near the beach.

Most ocean litter originates from land-based sources. Some of it is sewage-related debris, roadside litter that is washed down rivers into the sea or wind-blown waste from landfill sites near the coast. Some of it is also deposited by beach visitors who leave their litter in the sand.

Always remember that the rubbish in the ocean started its journey somewhere and as a first point of prevention, we can all help by collecting litter in our local area. We can collect litter whilst walking to the shop, walking the dog, when we take our children to the swing park or by organising a local event in your town or village.

Here at Watson & Wolfe, we are actively involved in community litter events. We are around 90 mins from the nearest beach, but we are close to a river. If you need some inspiration, check out two of the collections we organised in Gomshall and Abinger Hammer.

These days, the events and the number of participants have grown, with many people meeting once each each month to keep their community’s litter free.

Planning a beach holiday this Summer?

Wherever you are planning to go this Summer, you can help. Say 'Thank You' for the good times and memories by spending 15 minutes collecting some beach litter.

Here is a bag of beach litter collected by our Founder Helen during her holiday to Mallorca back in April.

Beach litter collected in Mallorca. Photo: Helen Farr-Leander

Plastic Free July

Clean Beach Week runs from 1st - 7th July and conveniently sets the tone for Plastic Free July, an event which helps us to reduce our reliance on plastic at home and in our every day lives.

Beach Clean Up in the UK

If you are reading this and based in the UK, you don't need to wait for an event here to help, but if you are keen to join up with a group or an organised event, then check out these organisations.

https://beachcleans.org.uk/

https://www.mcsuk.org/what-you-can-do/join-a-beach-clean/find-a-beach-clean/

https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/beach-cleans/

We also have a week long event in the UK, which runs from Friday 16th - Sunday 25th September 2022. You can find out more here.

Sources

Main image: http://www.cleanbeaches.com/

(1) https://nationaltoday.com/clean-beaches-week/

(2) https://interestingengineering.com/there-is-an-urgent-need-to-clean-up-our-oceans

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