Big Issue Vendor

This is how you can fight plastic pollution in the UK’s biggest beach clean

Surfers Against Sewage will help people across the country clear plastic pollution from up to a million miles of UK beaches and rivers
More than half of Brits think plastic pollution has grown during the Covid-19 crisis. Image: Pexels

As many as 100,000 volunteers could help clean up one million miles of beach, land and river in a year-long crackdown on plastic pollution and litter.

The Million Mile Clean, created by environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, is aimed at getting the public to take care of nature as the country emerges from lockdown.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to get involved.

How will the Million Mile Clean cut plastic pollution?

Surfers Against Sewage will support up to 100,000 volunteers to walk – and clean up waste from – ten miles each over the next year, with the first week of action set for May 15.

It will be the country’s biggest ever coordinated beach clean.

How can I get involved in the Million Mile Clean?

Those who want to get involved can find their local event on a dedicated beach clean website, and are encouraged to track their distances – therefore areas cleaned – using apps such as Strava. 

You can track down and join your local beach clean, or organise one yourself if there isn’t one nearby. 

Surfers Against Sewage will provide all the resources you need including an interactive map to promote your clean, materials to advertise the clean and the charity will even cover you with its public liability insurance.

Register your clean to receive a free beach clean kit, containing all the equipment you’ll need for 30 volunteers to get involved in cleaning up your area. And don’t forget to submit your results – including how many people took part, how much plastic pollution you picked up, the worst offending products and the distance you covered – after your clean.

How bad is plastic pollution in the UK?

Up to 2.2 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated in the UK each year. Plus more than half of Brits think plastic pollution has grown during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a survey of 2,000 UK adults commissioned by Surfers Against Sewage. 

More than a fifth of respondents were buying more single-use plastic during the pandemic, the research showed, with many purchasing disposable masks.

“The ocean is under threat and we are running out of time to save it,” said Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of the organisation.

“We want to inspire an army of ocean activists to join the cause and put an end to plastic pollution in the UK. “

Why else should I get involved?

The mammoth clean-up effort will also help boost people’s mental and physical health, Tagholm said, after more than 40 per cent of adults surveyed for the charity’s research said lockdown had impacted their mental wellbeing.

It is “crucial” for people to “reconnect with the outdoors”, according to professor Sabine Pahl – a University of Plymouth social scientist working on the psychological benefits of nature – who backed the Million Mile Beach Clean as an opportunity for thousands to do something for their health

“Making the connection between mental health and conservation is key in mobilising communities in the right way,” said Gillian Burke, a leading biologist and wildlife presenter, who called the challenge “ambitious” and “physical”.

“100,000 volunteers, each cleaning 10 miles of beach or river or street or mountain – the impact speaks for itself,” she added.