Surfers Against Sewage launches long-term plastic waste clean-up

The public is being urged to clear plastic and litter from their local beaches, rivers and parks as part of a million-mile clean-up to mark the emergence from lockdown.

Surfers Against Sewage, which is launching the scheme, said it wanted to reconnect people with nature and help promote physical and mental wellbeing.

More than half of British people think plastic waste has increased during the coronavirus lockdown, according to research commissioned by the surfers’ environmental charity.

More than a fifth of people have increased purchases of single-use plastic during the pandemic, according to the research, and another fifth are using disposable, not reusable, face masks.

The majority of people (74%) said they were seeing more than 10 pieces of plastic or litter on an average walk. Given the size of the UK population, this could amount to nearly 500m pieces of litter and plastic pollution, SAS said.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “The Million Mile Beach Clean, created in direct response to the pandemic, will reconnect people with the ocean and their natural surroundings, whilst also restoring wellbeing as the UK emerges from winter and the pandemic.

“This will come as a relief to the 41% of Brits that feel their mental health has deteriorated as a result of lockdown, with 52% of the UK population claiming that being near water improves their wellbeing and mental health.”

Surfers Against Sewage are calling for people across the UK to join the campaign and commit to cleaning up their local beach or neighbourhood.

Members of the public are being asked to visit the website and maybe track their beach cleans via a Strava Club community group.

The initiative will last throughout the UN Decade of Ocean Science, delivering a million miles a year – 10m by 2030 – and aligning with SAS’s 10-year ambition of ending plastic pollution on UK beaches by 2030.

Gillian Burke, a wildlife presenter and biologist who is supporting the initiative, said: Making the connection between mental health and environment is key in mobilising communities in the right way and the Million Mile Beach Clean does just that. 100,000 volunteers, each cleaning their local beach or river or street or mountain – the impact speaks for itself.”

Prof Sabine Pahl, a social psychologist at the University of Plymouth, said research showed that the coast and oceans had a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing. “Now more than ever it is crucial for people to reconnect with the outdoors and the Million Mile Beach Clean provides an opportunity for people to do something for their health whilst also creating a positive impact on the environment,” she said.

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