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Beach cleans in Cornwall

With about five million visitors descending on Cornwall each year, it’s little surprise that the beaches bear the brunt of one of tourism’s major downsides — rubbish. Globally, over six million tons of the stuff ends up in our oceans each year, much of which is washed up on our beaches. We all have a responsibility to keep our beaches clean and doing a beach clean is one of the best ways to help.  Here’s a guide on how to join a beach clean in Cornwall — or how to organise your own.

Join a 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.

The Roseland Peninsula
Hemmick Beach beach clean — on the first Saturday of each month
Pendower Beach beach clean — on the first Monday of each month
Porthcurnick Beach beach clean — on the first Monday of each month

The Lizard
Poldhu Beach clean — on the first Friday of each month

Beach Guardian

This father-and-daughter duo from Cornwall work to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans through school workshops and regular beach cleans. They have organised hundreds of beach cleans to date, coordinating regular events at Constantine Bay, Harlyn Bay, Trevone Bay and Porthcothan Bay in north Cornwall in the spring and summer. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming beach cleans.

The Marine Conservation Society

This UK charity, which campaigns for cleaner, better-protected oceans, hosts the Great British Beach Clean every September, a week-long event involving hundreds of beach cleans in the UK. Thousands of people descend on Cornwall’s beaches for the event, including dozens of the most popular holiday spots, from Mevagissey and Newquay to Bude, Porthtowan and Watergate Bay. Each single piece of litter, however tiny, is recorded, and the data is used to shape the charity’s future campaigns against plastic pollution.

Find more ways to get involved.

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Surfers Against Sewage

The national marine conservation charity organises beach cleans throughout the UK for their Million Mile Clean campaign. 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 Bottles

Plastic Free Communities

This is network of communities in the UK tackling single-use plastic, organised 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 Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance, Padstow 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.

Organise your own beach clean

Take the lead

Of course you don’t have to join an organised event. Make sure you keep a bag or carrier tucked into your rucksack for a bit of spontaneous litter picking — a single wrapper or packet picked up off the beach is one less piece in our oceans. Make sure you avoid things such as needles, used nappies, and sharp items and glass, and take your rubbish back home with you to recycle what you can. See here for tips on how to do collect litter safely and hygienically, particularly important if there are children involved.

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Surfers Against Sewage

If you want to join an organised event but can’t find a clean happening near you, there’s nothing stopping you organising your own event. Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning to clean up a million miles of coast and provide a step-by-step guide on how to get started, and once you’ve registered your clean they’ll send you a beach cleaning kit for 30 volunteers. Make sure you tag your clean on social #millionmileclean

What to look for

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. 

Avoid single-use plastic on holiday
Bodyboards on Beach Plastic Free Cornwall

Avoid buying new plastic on holiday

Don’t forget to pack your shopping bags, refill coffee cups and reusable water bottles, as well as straws, cutlery and anything else you might need for eating and drinking on the go. If you’re planning on some beach time, bring buckets, spades and any other beach paraphernalia from home  (or check with the cottage in advance to see if they supply them) to avoid buying new plastic on holiday. Check out schemes which offer hire wooden bodyboards locally, e.g. Surf Wood for Good, who hire out boards for free!

Cheeses Allotment Deli St Ives Cornwall Shop Local

Seek out local food

Avoid shopping at supermarkets, which invariably means mountains of plastic packaging, and look for farmers’ markets, refill shops, and local shops such as greengrocers, bakeries, fishmongers, butchers and community allotments instead. Not only will you be able to avoid plastic packaging, you’ll be putting money back into the local community and supporting independent businesses, too.

Food storage

Bring your food containers with you — tupperware, beeswax or soy wax wraps, or whatever else you use at home — or check ahead with your holiday cottage to see if they keep a supply of useful containers in the cottage so you can take pre-prepared food out with you and avoid plastic-wrapped takeaway food. Avoid food waste by storing leftovers and keeping food fresher for longer and avoid using cellophane or foil to wrap up food for your day out.