Why Bother With a Beach Clean?

Plastic pollution is everywhere. It can be very overwhelming, and lead to a sense of feeling like we can’t make a difference as one person. But we can.

Beach cleans, and more recently river, canal and even park clean ups, have become increasingly common and popular over the last few years. And this has had more impact than ‘just’ removing tonnes of plastic from our natural environment.

I recently made a short video entitled “Why Bother With a Beach Clean”. Below it I’ve written out my top 10 reasons for bothering to pick up litter!

  1. It does remove that harmful substance from the environment. Each bit of rope can no longer entangle an animal, each piece of plastic can’t be ingested.
  2. It inspires others to pick it up too, and helps other people to understand there’s an issue that needs addressing when they see you doing it.
  3. Picking up plastic from an environment you love helps connect the dots between what we’re using in our everyday lives and that which ends up on our beaches. This helps create further change, reducing what we use in the first place having seen it damaging the environment we care about.
  4. Plastic pollution is a great starting point for people’s journeys into the world of environmental campaigning. You can see, touch and pick up a piece of plastic. You can see clearly how our actions are affecting the world around us. It might just be the first step to becoming interested in other environmental issues, such as climate change.
  5. It gets people outside, connecting to the natural world around them. This can only be a good thing!
  6. Being able to actually do something positive is very empowering, and helps to maintain forward momentum and a sense of hope. It’s a really easy thing that we CAN do, and we all need that.
  7. It feels good to give something back. Campaigns like the 2 minute beach clean give you something simple you can do to say thank you to the place you love.
  8. Clean-ups bring people and communities together. In North Devon, the Plastic Free North Devon team regularly have 100-200 people for their beach cleans! People get to know each other, have a laugh together, have a cup of tea and eat some biscuits together, and feel less alone in their fight to protect their local environment.
  9. Picking up marine litter has led to innovations through people having to figure out what to do with the stuff they collect, and consequently identifying it as a resource rather than valueless. For example, Rob Thompson created Odyssey Innovations, making kayaks out of recycled marine litter; Waterhaul is a UK company making sunglasses out of ghost nets, and brands like Finisterre and Fourth Element, amongst many others, are making swim suits out of recycled marine litter! This is closing the loop on what was once considered simply a waste product.
  10. It can actually be a lot of fun. I love the beach cleans in North Devon, we have a laugh, I see my mates and I meet new like-minded people. I also love the paddle clean ups I’m involved in. If you can keep environmentalism upbeat, and get people doing something they actually enjoy, that’s a lot less likely to turn them off than paralysing them with negativity.

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