Solent beach-clean volunteers hailed as record breakers in new conservation statistics

The News and The Final Straw Solent have organised the Great Solent Beach Clean, in association with the Marine Conservation Society. Picture: Duncan Shepherd
The News and The Final Straw Solent have organised the Great Solent Beach Clean, in association with the Marine Conservation Society. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

CAMPAIGNERS determined to turn the tide of plastic pollution have heaped praise on beach cleaners for their top efforts.

New figures from the Marine Conservation Society show 834 people across The News’ patch united for the charity’s 25th Great British Beach Clean.

The event in September coincided with the debut Great Solent Beach Clean and turnout was more than four times greater than 2017, when just 188 people took part.

The green effort across the region, backed by The News, was spearheaded by Final Straw Solent and saw volunteers flock to nine coastal sites – including beauty spots at Southsea, Gosport, Portchester and Hayling Island.

Meanwhile across the nation, 15,000 people also got stuck in – compared to 7,000 in 2017 – making it the UK’s largest mass participation beach clean and survey ever.

Bianca Carr, founder of Final Straw Solent, said: ‘That's now a target to beat at the next one and we will.

‘To hear that many people have been so moved by the plastic problem that they want to  get out and make a change is incredible.

‘Thank you so much – without these people we would be nowhere.' 

Many have called the surge the ‘Blue Planet effect’ after the second series of the David Attenborough-fronted BBC show revealed the shocking pollution in our oceans in 2017.

Beach cleaner Cliff Culver, from Gosport, celebrated the ‘fantastic’ response so far, but said now is the time to go back a step and tackle plastic production head-on.

‘When someone like David Attenborough says there's a problem you sit up and listen,' the 47-year-old said.

‘If you saw your bath overflowing, you wouldn't start mopping the floor before you turn off the tap.

‘The real change will come when we get the manufacturers of this plastic to stop using it.’

If big companies do not start taking ‘fundamental action’, plastic’s effect on marine life across the globe could get even worse, Havant Friends of the Earth chairman Ray Cobbett warned.

‘People have shown real commitment by getting out on to the beaches and initiatives like Final Straw Solent are very welcome,' he said. 

‘But the only lasting solution is producing less plastic in the first place.’

MPs ADD THEIR PRAISE

MPs have echoed campaigners’ praise for residents who united to carry out record-breaking beach cleans.

The 2018 Great British Beach Clean, which coincided with the Great Solent Beach Clean, took place at nine sites across four political constituencies in our area – Portsmouth South, Gosport, Fareham and Havant.

MPs from those areas have spoken out the work of the volunteers who took part.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said: ‘As an MP for a coastal constituency, I see for myself on a daily basis the impact of plastics in the Solent and on our beaches. Unless we take urgent action, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050. We live in a fantastic coastal location and have a responsibility to take better care of it. It was great to join a number of beach cleans over the summer. The increase in the popularity of these events demonstrates local enthusiasm for keeping our beaches clean and plastic-free.’

Havant MP Alan Mak added: ‘The efforts by volunteers from the Havant constituency and the wider Solent region to tackle plastic rubbish has been outstanding. I’ve been supporting efforts to reduce plastic waste, including cutting down on my own plastic consumption for Lent and joining litter-pickers in Purbrook for a spring clean. As we all become more aware of the damage that plastic waste causes to our environment, I encourage everyone to get involved in projects such as the Great British Beach Clean to make our area a better place to live and work.’

BEACH CLEAN FACTS AND FIGURES 

OUR region’s contribution to the record-breaking statistics revealed this week came during the News-backed Great Solent Beach Clean on Saturday, September 15.

The volunteers recorded by the Maritime Conservation Society were based at coastal spots at Havant, Hayling Island, Hill Head, Meon Shore, Portchester, Southsea and Stokes Bay.

While the turnout was more than four times larger than recorded footfall at 2017’s Great British Beach Clean, that was not the only remarkable statistic from the day.

The following figures are based on comparison between 2018 and 2017’s events:

*Figures marked with an asterisk have been calculated using data submitted by people who took part in the Marine Conservation Society’s survey during the Great British Beach Clean.

This means the numbers recorded are minimum figures and could  in reality be greater — because not all people who cleaned beaches in the area on September 15 completed the poll.

Of the 843 people who cleaned, 449 completed the survey.