Public urged to take up ‘million mile beach clean’ challenge as lockdowns ease
By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent
Campaigners have launched what they say will be the UK’s biggest ever beach clean, as part of efforts to tackle the threat of plastic pollution to marine wildlife.
Surfers Against Sewage have marked the launch of their “million mile beach clean” with a 50-metre sand drawing of a seal surrounded by plastic on Cayton Bay in Yorkshire.
The charity hopes to inspire 100,000 people to clean up their local beach, river, street or green spaces, to clear a million miles by the end of 2021, as part of a new “million mile clean” environmental campaign.
The initiative aims to encourage people to get out locally as lockdown eases to tackle litter and plastic waste on streets, country lanes, parks and along waterways, as well as beaches.
Campaigners hope the efforts will protect oceans, beaches and wildlife, as well as reconnecting people with their local environment to help their physical and mental well-being as the country emerges from lockdown.
The initiative will run throughout 2021, but a first week of action will take place between May 15 and 23, and Surfers Against Sewage are calling for “clean leaders” to register to lead a clean-up event during the week.
The campaign comes as a survey of 2,000 British adults conducted by Opinium for Surfers Against Sewage indicated that more than half (54%) thought Covid-19 had led to an increase in plastic pollution.
Some 59% of those quizzed said they had seen more waste in their area in the last 12 months, while just under a fifth (18%) admitted they had bought more plastic items as a result of the pandemic, and the same proportion had opted for disposable facemasks rather than reusable ones.
Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “The ocean is under threat and we are running out of time to save it. We want to inspire an army of ocean activists to join the cause and put an end to plastic pollution in the UK.
“After more than a year of isolation, social distancing and reduced physical activity, the Million Mile Beach Clean reconnects communities with the environment and provides numerous benefits to mental health and physical well-being.”
He urged people to sign up for the initiative to help make a difference.
The lead partner for the campaign over the next three years is the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation (IFCF).
Richard Walker, IFCF trustee and managing director of Iceland Foods, added: “As a surfer, beach user and business leader, I believe it is imperative that we protect and restore our oceans as they are essential for all life on earth.
“The million mile beach clean is an opportunity to make a positive impact in reducing the impact of plastic pollution across the UK.”