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Felixstowe beach clean is a huge success

PUBLISHED: 15:27 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:51 25 October 2018

Proud Melissa with 45kg of litter PICTURE: Melissa Masters

Proud Melissa with 45kg of litter PICTURE: Melissa Masters

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The Surfers Against Sewage beach clean in Felixstowe, organised by local resident Melissa Masters, collected over 45kg of litter on Sunday, October 21.

Litter collected on Felixstowe beach PICTURE: Melissa MastersLitter collected on Felixstowe beach PICTURE: Melissa Masters

The amount of plastic produced worldwide has increased from 1.5 million tons in 1950, to 320 million tons in 2016, and this figure is set to double by 2034. While plastic has become a staple material across the globe, and yes, has many positives, plastic waste is a huge issue.

Every day approximately eight million pieces of plastic pollution finds its way into our oceans, and this plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the world - from busy tourist beaches to uninhabited, tropical islands.

We need to act fast if we’re going to try and undo some of the damage already caused, so what can we do to help?

This is a question that Suffolk resident Melissa Masters has definitely thought about. She said: “I personally, have always loved being at the beach. It is where I spent the majority of my childhood and is now where I find myself at my happiest. I guess my upbringing has always led me to be quite educated on our plastic pollution and provided a constant exposure.”

Volunteers taking part in the Felixstowe beach clean PICTURE: Melissa MastersVolunteers taking part in the Felixstowe beach clean PICTURE: Melissa Masters

Conscious about the growing issue, in 2014 Melissa heard about Surfers Against Sewage, a marine conservation and campaigning charity that inspires, unites and empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife, and became a member. As part of SAS, she participated in various beach cleans organised by other volunteers, and this month organised her own for the first time on Felixstowe sea front.

“Surfers Against Sewage’s beach clean project launched in 2011 and the autumn clean ups alone have seen over 28,000 volunteers remove over 80,000kg of marine plastic pollution, which is equivalent of over 19,500 bin bags.

“I sent an email the SAS community coordinator asking to participate in the upcoming Autumn Clean Up and informed him of where I wanted to host the event and on what date. I later received a beach clean up kit from SAS including bags, gloves, leaflets, posters, sharps kit and first aid kit, and then set up a Facebook event and contacted several local organisations (including newspapers and the local Green Party) to see if they would share my event – and a lot of people were super excited and willing to help out!

“This year is more important than ever as the Government is planning to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme - a system where every plastic drinks bottle and can is recycled and we create a circular economy. This has been hugely successful in Norway and parts of the US and has been the result of lots of campaigning by SAS and others.

Various bottles and cans collected on Felixstowe beach PICTURE: Melissa MastersVarious bottles and cans collected on Felixstowe beach PICTURE: Melissa Masters

“SAS provides beach clean leaders with a simple tool (a paper ruler categorising bottle sizes A-D, A being the smallest) which allows us to measure each bottle and tally the various types and sizes found from the clean ups. This evidence is then given to the Government as part of its consultation to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme.”

The Felixstowe beach clean took place on Sunday, October 21 and Melissa says the turn out was better than she could have ever expected.

“The beach clean went really well. Far better than I imagined it would. I was hoping for 20 people to turn up – which would mostly be friends and family - but I had over 60 volunteers, most of who were strangers!” explains Melissa. “To have so many people turn up for the event just goes to show that people are paying attention to this. We even had people who weren’t volunteering come over and ask what was happening and it was great to hear so many people get so passionate and willing to get hands-on.

“People arrived by 9:30am at the beach by Landguard Fort where they signed in, collected a bag, litter picker and/or gloves, I gave a quick housekeeping talk and they went on their way. I also set a couple competitions up (most unusual object, most litter collected and a scavenger hunt for the under 16s). This was to give something back to the volunteers and just make it a bit more fun for everyone. We met back at the stand at 11.15am where I announced the winners who won vouchers and books and thanked everyone for coming along.

A big group of volunteers came together to clean up Felixstowe beach PICTURE: Melissa MastersA big group of volunteers came together to clean up Felixstowe beach PICTURE: Melissa Masters

“Afterwards we weighed the litter collected and had over 45kg! The majority of this rubbish was either plastic pieces or bottles. A few people were disheartened by the fact that they had only collected small pieces, but it is these bits of plastic that don’t go away or are missed!”

Melissa hasn’t organised a date for the next Surfers Against Sewage Felixstowe beach clean yet but is confident there will be one. However local organisation Plastic-Free Felixstowe is holding a beach clean at Old Felixstowe on November 18, which people are more than welcome to get involved with.

Melissa also adds: “You can organise your own mini-clean if you’re short of time and information on how to do this can be found on the Surfers Against Sewage website. But people don’t have to go to great lengths to help. Picking up litter you find is one way, but reducing your single-use plastic in day-to-day activities or even just making others aware of this problem goes a long way.

“We can do as much as we can in our own homes, with our own hands, which is fantastic and does have an impact, but this problem requires action from the Government and big businesses - which is why the Autumn Clean is such a huge event for the UK.

Volunteers taking part in the Felixstowe beach clean PICTURE: Melissa MastersVolunteers taking part in the Felixstowe beach clean PICTURE: Melissa Masters

For more information and to find out how you can help, visit the Surfers Against Sewage website. Also visit the organisations Facebook page to find beach clean events local to you.

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