Trend alert: beach cleaning

For those choosing to vacation by the seaside, simply leaving the place as they found it isn’t good enough for many. Joining beach cleans is seen as one way of “giving something back.”

Cornwall, the furthest south-westerly part of Britain, boasts beaches that rank favorably among the world’s best. Unfortunately, along with breathtaking beauty, what the waves and tides also bring is plastic waste – by the ton. 

Cornwall’s spectacular beaches attract over 40 million visitors every year. Photo: David Clapp

To the credit of the local community, various sustainability initiatives have sprung up over the years and Cornwall has forged a reputation for being one of the most forward-thinking areas in the country when it comes to recycling. 

John & Emely Stevenson. Photo: David ClappAnxious about the damage that they noticed on family trips to Cornwall, father-daughter team John and Emily Stevenson vowed to do something to combat the rising tide of waste washing up on the beaches. It would eventually lead to the foundation of Beach Guardian. 

“In our spare time, we’d go down to the beach and pick up litter brought in by the sea or left by visitors. Gradually, our knowledge and passion grew to reach this point,” says John. 

Like many other missions, word spread via Facebook groups and other social media and the fledgling -operations garnered national attention when Emily made a dress entirely of discarded chips packets and wore it to her graduation. 

Along with beach cleans all along the Cornish coastline, Beach Guardian’s principle aim is to inform and educate people and organizations by way of school and company visits and talks. 
"I can give you a concrete example of the scale,” says John. “We were in a cove in Treyarnon last week and picked up 213 plastic bottles from all around the world, some dating back to 1985. We take those bottles to our talks and cut them up to make pots for planting plants and trees. It encourages people to think of how you can do things.”

Tiny plastic pellets are a less visible issue – but just as troublesome – as discarded  bottles. Photo: David Clapp

Some issues are more obvious than others on the coast and the pair are keen to emphasize that it’s not necessarily people leaving just leaving their rubbish on beaches that’s the problem. Tiny plastic pellets, for example, are a huge issue. 
“There’s so much eco-anxiety and negative news that just leaves people feeling a bit helpless. For us, it’s good to inspire people and spread a positive message,” says Emily. 

“There are things that everyone could do both on an individual and organizational level. But rather than pointing fingers, what we’re saying is ‘Here’s something you can do about it.’” 

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