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Beach cleans in Cornwall

This week, the Marine Conservation Society, a UK charity that campaigns for cleaner, better-protected oceans, will be hosting its 29th Great British Beach Clean, a week-long event involving dozens of beach cleans up and down the UK, including many in Cornwall’s most popular holiday spots.

To celebrate, we thought we’d share some tips on how to join a beach clean — at any time of the year — or what you need to do to organise your own. Globally, over eight million tons of rubbish ends up in our oceans each year, much of which is washed up on our beaches, and with over 330 beaches in Cornwall alone, we all need to play our part in helping to keep our beaches clean, safe and plastic free.

Join an organised beach clean

There are several organisations — big and small — that host regular beach cleans in Cornwall, including the National Trust and the national marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage. Here are some tips on how to find and get involved in an organised beach clean.

The National Trust

The UK’s biggest conservation charity cares for over 40% of the Cornish coastline, and that includes its beaches. They organise monthly beach cleans at some of the county’s most popular coastal spots in south Cornwall. Keep an eye on the National Trust’s website for newly added beach cleans. 

Hemmick Beach, Roseland Peninsula — on the first Saturday of each month
Pendower Beach, Roseland Peninsula — on the first Monday of each month
Porthcurnick Beach, Roseland Peninsula — on the first Monday of each month
Poldhu Beach, the Lizard — on the first Friday of each month

The Marine Conservation Society

Hosts of the Great British Beach Clean, the MCS campaigns for cleaner, better-protected oceans. Thousands of people descend on the UK’s beaches for the event, with every single piece of litter, however tiny, being recorded and used to shape the charity’s future campaigns against plastic pollution. The Marine Conservation Society’s website is a brilliant resource, helping you to search for organised beach cleans happening near you, and is full of handy information on school and team building beach cleaning events and how to organise your own.

Surfers Against Sewage

The national marine conservation charity organises beach cleans throughout the UK for their Million Mile Clean campaign, encouraging 100,000 people each year to help clean up our rivers, lakes and beaches. So far, they have organised over 4,000 events, collecting nearly half a million kilos of rubbish. In Cornwall, cleans take place in Portreath, Perranporth and Watergate Bay on the north coast, in Penzance and nine beaches around Falmouth in south Cornwall, and on Truro River. 

Plastic Free Communities

This is network of communities in the UK tackling single-use plasticorganised by Surfers Against Sewage; there are dozens of groups in Cornwall that have won plastic free community status. The communities organise regular local beach cleans in various locations, including FalmouthNewquayPenzancePadstow and Fowey. It’s worth looking on their individual Facebook pages to see what they’re doing and when the next beach clean event is happening.

Take the lead

If you can’t find an event happening near you, there’s nothing to stop you organising your own. Whether you just want to get family and friends involved or mobilise an entire community, The Marine Conservation Society will help you get set up and will send out free beach cleaning kits — don’t forget to submit your results afterwards! Of course it doesn’t have to be an organised event…making sure you keep a bag or carrier tucked into your rucksack is always a good idea for a bit of spontaneous litter picking — a single wrapper or packet picked up off the beach is one less piece in our oceans. Beach cleaning has also been found to have a positive effect on our mental health and wellbeing.

What to look for

Make sure you take some gloves along with you — litter pickers are useful too — for things such as needles, used nappies, and sharp items and glass, and always take your rubbish back home with you to recycle what you can. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust has lots of tips on how to do a beach clean safely and hygienically, particularly important if there are children involved. Keep eyes peeled for the obvious, like plastic bottles and food wrappers, and for the camouflaged plastic too — you’d be surprised how many ‘pebbles’ are actually small bits of plastic. Fishing nets almost look like they belong in their maritime surroundings, but we can assure you that they definitely don’t! Nurdles are plastic pellets which are tiny enough for wildlife to commonly mistake for food — once you spot one you will begin to see them everywhere.

Looking to ditch the plastic on holiday? See our handy guide on how to have a plastic-free holiday in Cornwall