The Big Spring Beach Clean

April 25, 2019
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Spring client, Hydro Flask, has been working with Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) for less than a year, yet has already donated tens of thousands of pounds to the charity through its Parks for All initiative.

Volunteers on the beach

The Big Spring Beach Clean begins

British charitable organisation, SAS, was established in 1990 by a group of surfers looking to protect our oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife. Hydro Flask’s donation has been put directly towards training regional SAS rep volunteers.

One of those volunteers is Lizzi Larbalestier. Lizzi lives in Perranporth in Cornwall and, alongside daily beach cleans, is a professional coach and Founder of Going Coastal Blue which specialises in ‘Blue Health’ – advocating the benefits of being in, near, on or under the water.

This month was a big one for Lizzi and the SAS team as their annual Spring Beach Clean took place. The ‘Big Spring Beach Clean: Summit to Sea’ saw over 40,000 volunteers turn up to 615 locations across the UK to pick up as much litter as they could find. Volunteers were then asked to record their findings to get a bigger picture of the type and brand of litter they’re finding.

The SAS Plastic Pollution Audit was launched in 2006 and highlighted the top 12 companies whose plastic was most commonly found on UK beaches – naming Nestle, Coca Cola, Walkers, Kraft, Tesco, Mars and Unilever among its ‘Dirty Dozen’. 

We caught up with Lizzi to find out what gets her to the beach every day.

What’s your motivation? Why is this subject so important to you?

“I work with my clients outdoors at the beach using applied environmental psychology to promote wellbeing and creative thinking. As a Blue Mind ambassador, I promote “water as medicine” and since we each benefit from the emotional, social, psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits of healthy wild water there is a responsibility for each of us to protect our ocean.

“It is time for all to wake up to the fact that we are part of a fragile ecosystem that relies on healthy water to thrive.  In addition to helping the environment, bringing people together for meaningful activity and fresh air fosters community, combats social isolation and promotes mental health and physical wellbeing.”

Big Spring Beach Clean rubbish found

What about your volunteers? As plastic becomes more and more of a news headline are you seeing more and more people come to help out?

“There is a steady increase in volunteer numbers coming along to beach cleans and sharing how they are making changes in their shopping habits to stem the tide of single use plastic.”

What else can we do to help closer to home?

“If you do use supermarkets, unwrap your goods and give the plastic back to the store to recycle wisely – tell them you don’t want or need this type of packaging.  Take re-usable containers to delis.  Take your own beakers / bottles to events and gigs, or reusable coffee cups to cafes. Lobby your local politicians to support policy changes.  Contact manufacturers and ask your favourite brands to change their ways when it comes to packaging.  Remember the hierarchy – refuse, reuse, repurpose, recycle.”

What’s the most common item you find?

“In Perranporth, we get a lot of ADLFG (abandoned, discarded or lost fishing gear – ghost nets) and other fishing related items. In terms of land based marine litter, we are finding more and more flaked plastic – smaller pieces of micro plastic which were one items such as bottles and picnic packaging. We also find sewage related items such as cotton bud sticks plus millions of nurdles (pre-production plastic) and cigarette butts. In the summer we have an increase in nappies and wet wipes left on the beach – which is pretty grim.”

Is it just plastic that’s a problem?

“We find wood pallets, glass and metal too – so general beach litter such as drinks cans and bottles.  We find chemicals such as palm oil washing up on our beach and the occasional sewage spill when we have heavy rain.”

What do you do with the rubbish you collect? Is it ever put to good use?

“All rubbish that can be recycled is. As part of our Plastic Free Communities action we work with Ocean Recovery Scheme to ensure we avoid landfill for plastics and metals and we have a team called Ghostbusters ALDFG who recover large ghost fishing nets from all over Cornwall. They send them to circular economy projects such as Odyssey Innovation who get ghost net made into pellet and then form kayaks from this recycled material. 

“At our most recent beach clean we found a large piece of pipe around two meters long and our local garden charities team have made car park bollards out of it!  Rope tends to be reused as we cannot yet recycle it and wood pallets get repurposed.”

How are you hoping we, as consumers, and the companies we buy from change how much plastic is being used in this country? Or how we get rid of our rubbish?

“There is a huge amount of avoidable plastic – consumers and suppliers need to really question the necessity of packaging – and there is also a huge amount of raw material that can be recycled; we need to start seeing the value in recovered materials, such as ghost fishing net, which as a raw material is highly recyclable.  Education is key, as consumers are often confused about what is and is not recyclable, and local authorities need to invest in better recycling infrastructure. Through establishing a circular economy we can ensure at the design stage the full product lifecycle is considered.”

What horror stories have you seen when it comes to the effect rubbish can have on marine life?

“I am also a Marine Mammal Medic for British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and we often pick up seals and cetaceans with injuries caused by net entanglement. Last year however I picked up a seal pup from Trevellas Porth which was extremely malnourished. It turned out that young “Brian” had directly ingested two black plastic bags. These would have impacted his ability to feed and this seal was the first example the sanctuary had seen of a pup directly eating plastic. Plastic waste is prolific in their environment and young pups can become confused. Whilst, with a little help, he passed the bags through his system this error could easily have cost young Brian his life.  Another seal pup was brought in by the sanctuary team with a frisbee around her neck and other BDMLR callouts have included cutting seals free from microfilament around the necks and flippers.”

To find out about your local SAS Beach Clean – click here.

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