Q & A - ASK ME ANYTHING
I've been interviewed on many occasions on the radio and for magazine & newspaper articles and the questions are always of a similar nature, so I thought I'd put my answers to these questions on here to share with you!
HOW AND WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH BEACH CLEANS?
My first beach clean was in 2018 which was an organised group beach clean event by Dune Runner & Surfers Against Sewage. After that I’d attended a few more organised beach cleans by Sea Shepherd and Surfers Against Sewage.
It wasn’t until World Oceans Day 2020 (8th June) that I organised my first beach clean with friends. One of them said “why is it just on World Oceans Day that we do a beach clean, it should be a more regular thing”, I was in complete agreement and so I looked into what local groups there were that ran and organised beach cleans.
Needless to say there wasn't any that I could find in my area!
I decided to organise regular beach cleans with friends from that day forward. And between 8th June to the end of 2020, myself and friends removed 84kg of litter from the beaches.
It was in January 2021 I created the Facebook page/group ‘Norfolk Beach Cleans’, with the aim to be for people other than my friends to join me on beach clean events (when COVID restrictions eased and allowed group events).
My main reason behind beach cleaning is to 'protect what I love' which is the ocean, environment and the wildlife.
One of my hobbies is scuba diving and so it’s in my interest to reduce the impact litter has on the ocean, not only from a scuba diving point of view but from a survival point of view, because every second breath of oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean.
If the plastic pollution continues to cause destruction to marine life and the ocean ecosystems, the consequences will be devastating for all life on earth.
It might sound exaggerated and morbid but ultimately this is what would happen and we need to do something about it, NOW!
I chose to organise beach cleans to remove litter from the environment but the main thing we need to do is reduce our consumption of single use plastic and this is where the government and larger manufacturers need to take action.
WHERE DO YOU DO YOUR BEACH CLEANS?
Mainly around the East Norfolk coast (Caister-On-Sea, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston-On-Sea) as I live in Caister-On-Sea.
During the third lockdown at the beginning of 2021 the rule was to stay local and so I was doing solo clean-ups in my local area.
It wasn't until 23rd May when I hosted my first organised group beach clean.
I got to understand the local beaches, where the litter hotspots were and so I’ve continued group beach clean events in the same areas as they’re near and familiar to me.
On occasion I travel further round the Norfolk coast hosting beach cleans but my main focus is on the East Norfolk beaches.
AND WHEN? (ARE THERE REGULAR CLEANS?)
I work full time during the week, so most of the beach cleans I organise are on a weekend or on an evening after work.
I try to make them as regular as possible and when I haven’t got plans or holiday.
In the first month of being allowed to do group beach cleans I held 5 beach cleans, where I was joined by 78 volunteers and 136kg of litter was collected in total.
In 2022, I started hosting a series of monthly beach cleans in a Caister (every second Saturday) & Gorleston (every first Sunday), although life, weather and sickness often changes these plans so it's not always worked out to be 'the first Sunday of the month' for example.
ARE THERE OTHER BEACH CLEAN ORGANISATIONS AROUND THE NORFOLK COAST?
Yes of course there are!
Due to the pandemic this hindered most of them from resuming beach cleans and some groups only do a couple beach cleans a year, so are not as active.
North Norfolk Beach Cleans is run by a lady called Shelley and she organises beach cleans between Sea Palling and Trimingham beaches.
I’ve collaborated with Shelley on a few previous beach cleans and hoping to do a few more joint events in the near future.
Collaborations are a good way to reach out to more people as each organisation / group has different followers; raising awareness of plastic pollution and the issues associated with littering is important to help educate the public and encourage positive behaviour around littering and proper waste disposal.
IS NORFOLK BEACH CLEANS A CHARITY OR GOOD CAUSE OR SIMPLY SOMETHING YOU SET UP?
In the beginning it was just something I setup to encourage the public to get involved in beach cleans and litter picking in general.
I set up the group because there wasn’t an active group in my area (East Norfolk).
For me personally, when I first started beach cleaning in 2018, it was easier for me to attend an organised event where I could borrow the equipment and be part of a group with a common cause and I wasn’t the only one doing it. I used to feel self conscious litter picking on my own but as a group I felt part of a team (community) as I didn’t feel like the odd one out.
I’ve received a lot of support towards the cause since starting which is why in September 2021 I decided to register Norfolk Beach Cleans as a legal entity as a CIC (community interest company) not for profit.
The community response has been very positive and it’s something people want to be a part of and get involved, making a difference to their local area.
The biggest financial supporter I’ve had to date is from my company, Pharos Marine Automatic Power, where they made a very generous donation of £1000 to go towards essential equipment and running costs.
HAVE YOU HAD TO CHANGE THINGS DURING THE PANDEMIC?
I started the group during the pandemic, at first I was doing solo beach cleans and posting on social media about my beach clean adventures, encouraging others to get involved in their own solo litter pick.
Due to the government guidelines, there were group size restrictions and the council wouldn’t approve group events to go ahead until after 17th May as per government guidelines.
When filling out risk assessments prior to doing each beach clean event I needed to include additional content for COVID-19 and how to reduce the risk on a beach clean.
Transmission risk is very minimal on a beach clean, at the beginning the group are gathered for a safety briefing but after that they go in different directions and spread out across the beach. I provide hand sanitiser to all volunteers should they want to use it, so all areas are covered to reduced COVID transmission.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WOULD NORMALLY JOIN A BEACH CLEAN?
The biggest group to date was 68, which was on a private beach clean for a group of year 6 students & teachers.
The largest public group beach clean was with 46 volunteers but then the smallest group size has been 2 volunteers.
The average attendance works out to be around 20 volunteers per beach clean
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON THINGS YOU PICK UP?
It depends which area / beach and the time of year.
At the dog walking hotspots, you tend to find a lot of bagged dog poo. If the beach is close to a road where there are parked cars you find a lot of drinks bottles and fast-food packaging.
In the sand dune areas, it’s common to find disposable BBQs in the summer time and after high winds the sand erosion tends to uncover old litter such as crisp packets dating back 30+ years!
During the summer on sandy beaches there tends to be a lot of plastic beach toys that get left behind.
Which is the reason I've introduced the Beach Toy Borrow Box for dropping off unwanted beach toys for others to re-use on their beach visit!
DO YOU ENJOY IT? WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT IT?
I enjoy it for two main reasons, one is the sense of achievement you get afterwards, knowing the difference I’ve made by removing the litter from the environment and that it can no longer cause harm to the wildlife and two is the act itself is quite therapeutic and relaxing, maybe it’s because I’m by the ocean or maybe it’s because I’m on my own in my own headspace, like a form of escapism.
It’s a great activity for anyone wanting to improve their mental health and I’d recommend everyone to have a go if you haven’t before. You’ll be hooked!
WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY MEAN TO YOU?
Sustainability to me means making the right choices for the planet. Whether it be choosing an item based on the material because it’s ‘sustainable’ and hasn’t contributed to deforestation or other forms of habitat destruction in order to farm/manufacture a product.
For me it also means reducing my plastic usage, as it’s not sustainable if the entire world continues generating and throwing away plastic on the scale it has been and currently is.