Activists have launched what they believe will be the UK’s largest beach ever cleaned to tackle the plastic pollution threat to marine life.
Surfers Against Wastewater have marked the start of their “Million Mile Beach Clean” with a 50-meter sand drawing of a seal surrounded by plastic in Cayton Bay in Yorkshire.
The charity hopes to inspire 100,000 people to clean their local beach, river, street or green space and clear one million miles by the end of 2021 as part of a new “Millions of Miles Clean” environmental campaign.
The initiative aims to encourage people to get off locally, as the lockdown makes it easier to tackle litter and plastic waste on roads, dirt roads, parks and along waterways and beaches.
Activists hope the effort will protect oceans, beaches and wildlife, and reconnect people to their local surroundings for the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing when the country emerges from the lockdown.
The initiative will run later in 2021, but an initial week of action will take place between May 15-23, and Surfers Against Sewage are encouraging “clean leaders” to register to lead a cleanup during the week.
The Opinium for Surfers Against Sewage survey of 2,000 UK adults found that more than half (54%) thought Covid-19 had caused an increase in plastic pollution.
Around 59% of respondents said they had seen more waste in their area in the past 12 months, while just under a fifth (18%) admitted buying more plastic items as a result of the pandemic, and the same proportion opted for it earlier for disposable face masks than for reusable ones.
Hugo Tagholm, General Manager of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “The ocean is threatened and we don’t have 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 offers numerous mental health and physical well-being benefits.”
He urged people to sign up for the initiative to make a difference.
The main partner of 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 to all life on earth.
“The million mile beach cleanup is an opportunity to positively reduce the impact of plastic pollution across the UK.”