Surfers Against Sewage Beach Clean
Everyone loves going to the beach. So as Britons, who are normally plagued with cloudy, cold days and highly accustomed to the wind slapping rain in our faces for what feels like most of the year, the opportunity of cracking open a bottle of fizz while dipping our feet into the ocean and laying out on the sand or pebbles in the blazing hot sun, is far too much to resist. Unfortunately, what many beach revellers don't so much love is taking that empty bottle of fizz to its rightful place - the bin.
On UK beaches there are 5000 pieces of plastic and 150 plastic bottles for each mile. A large proportion of this comes straight from land-based sources, such as the bottle that, for some unknown reason, you couldn’t be bothered to take to the bin with you.
It has to be said that the punters are not entirely to blame for it all; factors such as the lack of bins, bins that are too small, bins that are too full and, of course, the help from our seagulls who so kindly redistribute the rubbish ripped from that overflowing bin back all over the beach again, also have a part to play in this.
However, it’s partially irrelevant with whom the blame lies, because the problem is that too many people just aren’t bothered. This isn’t my pessimistic outlook on the flaws of the human race, but rather what we have all seen time and time again across the country every time the sun decides to make an appearance.
Of course, this summer was far worse than we could have imagined. On the 16th of March this year, we all received the devastating news that we were in the midst of a deadly virus and entering a pandemic. As we were bound to our homes with strict instructions to resist hot weather and stay inside, when the lockdown measures began to ease, it was our beaches that suffered severe consequences.
If you happened to have missed the pictures of rubbish strewn across UK beaches that have circled continuously on social media and national news, particularly throughout the last couple of months, then you have only to wander down to Brighton beach on a warm day at the weekend and you’ll start to get the idea.
Eleven tonnes of rubbish were collected along Brighton beach in just one day on June 27th and that was also the most ever recorded - an increase of eight tonnes compared with the usual average of three for the time of year. Beach cleaning staff working for Brighton and Hove City Council, some of whom have worked there for over 15 years, said it was the most rubbish they had seen collected in one day. And unfortunately, this was not a stand-alone occurrence, but rather a reminder of the endless problems Brighton faces with rubbish along its beaches.
Hope is not completely lost though, because there is always a brighter side to these stories. While most beaches face problems with litter, in a city like Brighton which sees over 11 million visitors every year, no matter how much there is, it is never there for very long.
Volunteers, businesses and charities across the city work tirelessly to try to ensure every last piece is collected from our beaches. I was able to not only witness, but also meet the people in this city who are testament to the fact that people do care, and they’re doing something about it.
Who are Surfers Against Sewage?
Back in the 80s and 90s, it was not uncommon to come into direct contact with anything from sanitary products, condoms and human faeces while in the sea. Those who were using it for surfing, wind-surfing and any kind of water sport, were growing tired of becoming physically sick and unwell just from doing the thing they loved – using the ocean.
In May 1990, a community of surfers set up Surfers Against Sewage and fought hard for a decade as a single-issue campaign group. Through that campaigning, they made sure their voices, expressing the need for faster sewage infrastructure investment in order to stop the problems of chronic sewage pollution, were heard.
Even from their initial beginnings, the Surfers Against Sewage community quickly became high-profile eco-activists, claiming to have even entered political conferences with their boards, attired in wetsuits and gas masks so that they could make sure that the severity of their concerns were recognised.
While sewage infrastructure has now improved incredibly since the 90s, it’s not just all about sewage and surfing for this community any more. With over two thousand regional reps, as well as fifteen hundred beach cleans organised in 2019, today their charity also deals with a wide spectrum of conservation issues, from marine litter to climate change. While once their enemy was sewage, a new one has approached; can you guess it? Yes. Plastic.
“Not just surfers, not just sewage” - Surfers Against Sewage
Of course, it’s not just plastic. Brighton and Hove City Council were forced to implement new measures following June 27th and the eleven tonnes of rubbish. Some of these measures included additional bin collections, extra bins, an extra truck to concentrate on collecting litter on the seafront and the new £150 on the spot littering fine, which as of August 6th, has been issued nearly 400 times to litter-bugs in just the last three months - a total of £100,000 from 383 fines since April.
So, while plastic is one of the biggest enemies of our oceans, a lot of rubbish left by beach-goers is often things that are, unfortunately, missed by beach cleaning staff. While they can collect the bigger things, the small rubbish such as the bottle caps and lids, cigarette ends, the plastic rings from beers, wet wipes, plastic bags, nitrous oxide chargers and pieces of smashed glass which makes up just some of the small pieces of litter that gets left behind, is left up to organisations, communities and locals to give up their time to clear. And without their valuable help, the harmful rubbish eventually ends up in our oceans, amongst the habitats of our sea creatures.
Want to know more about Surfers Against Sewage, or donate? Check out their website