It’s springtime, and with the improving weather comes the annual beach cleaning season! Seas At Risk member organisations across Europe have activated their own membership and organised their annual beach cleans.

This year was a particularly busy one, with a third of SAR members organising some activity based around getting citizens to play a role in cleaning up their marine environment. The events are not just aimed at improving the visual and ecological environment of the beaches that are targeted – many of the organisation also collect data on the waste they collect, to better inform policy makers when they try to tackle them at source. They also seek to increase the awareness of the general public to the damage we do to the marine environment through careless and excess use of resources, particularly single use plastics.

  • In Denmark, the Danish Society for Nature Conservation has set a new record for participants in their annual waste collection, with over 123,000 students participating in their coastal collections in April. They collected a record amount of waste, half of which was plastic.
  • In France, the Surfrider Foundation has released the results of its five year study (French) of marine litter waste found in beach clean-ups there. An overwhelming 80% of waste identified contained plastic of some sort. Their Ocean Initiatives programme aims to help citizens get involved in the fight.
  • Greece saw two SAR members active, with the Mediterranean SOS Network assembling over 200 supporters, including world swimming champion Spyros Giannioti, to clean up the beaches of the port town of Piraeus. Meanwhile, Archipelagos have been cleaning up waste and sunken boats that have accumulated as a result of the refugee crisis off Greece’s coast.
  • The Netherlands are looking to the future, as the North Sea Foundation has set the date of their clean-up for early August, when they hope to collect over 1.2 million plastic waste items. They profiled a report from their new project leader, Marijke Boonstra, who has been conducting her first beach survey. She located about 270 items over a mere 100 metres. The Wadden Sea Association were emphasising the fun at their annual event, with their clean up in April designed to clear the beach areas for the birds nesting there.
  • Norway’s Naturvernforbundet followed on from their 7 May event with tips and advice on how to limit one’s own waste impact.
  • In Spain, Retorna brought their focus on deposit return schemes to the clean-up cause. After participating in the Valencian beach clean with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and others, they estimated that 75% of the waste located was plastic bottles and drinks cans.
  • For the UK, two SAR members have been working away for cleaner beaches. The Marine Conservation Society have had their most successful ‘Great British Beach Clean’ yet, with over 6035 volunteering for it, the most ever in their 22 year history. Surfers Against Sewage delivered another record breaker, with 231 beaches across the UK cleaned in mid-April, with 8000 volunteers finding all sorts of debris, including a set of false teeth! They are also profiling their ‘Mini Beach Clean’ idea, to allow individuals to play a role in the fight against marine litter at any time in the year.
  • Internationally, our partners in Project Aware took a slightly alternative option, marking this year’s Earth Day (22 April) with their Dive Against Debris programme, which involves divers cleaning up the actual sea floor and ocean itself from some of the worst items of marine litter.