Photo © Phil Thompson / MCS
Looking for a fun club activity that everyone can join in with and makes the world a better place? Kerry MacKay of the GRAB Trust suggests you could organise a club beach clean...
Picture this, your local club has a fun day of diving where friends and family are welcome along too. You enjoy a couple of awesome dives, between dives you amble along the shore nearby and pick up the litter you find, while your companion tallies the weird and woesome things you find.
There’s a delicious BBQ on the go, and the kids are playing on the now clean and safe beach. While devouring your burgers and sausages, you debate just how big the fish you saw was, and boast about how many kilograms of litter you cleaned up. You finish the day tired but happy, you had some great dives, good laughs, did your good deed, and helped science. Who’d have thought it could be so fun being a good citizen scientist?
Every September the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) coordinate the Great British Beach Clean. A national effort to give our beaches a bit of a spruce-up after their heavy use over summer and encourage litter surveys to capture a snapshot of the amount and types of litter found across the country.
This year the Great British Beach Clean runs from Friday 15th to Sunday 24th of September 2023. You can do an MCS Beachwatch survey at any time of year, but the Great British Beach Clean is the annual big event.
The MCS use the data from the beach surveys to campaign for policy changes to reduce litter. For example, it was MCS Beachwatch data that helped push through the plastic bag charges. Since the 5p bag charge was introduced, plastic bag litter on beaches fell by 60%.
“How do you do a survey?” I hear you ask. You simply print out a survey form from the MCS Beachwatch website or complete it on your device (waterproof case recommended). Choose a 100m stretch of beach to be your survey Transect. Then tally all the different types of litter you find in that 100m. You can clean the whole beach, but only tally the litter from the 100m transect. Then total up the tallies at the end.
Personally, I find it easiest to use a paper form and work with a buddy or in a small team of up to 5 people (one person with a bin bag, one filling in the form, and the others picking up litter). If there are several groups, make sure each has a form and all survey the same 100m. Collect all the forms at the end and total them up.
Don’t forget to weigh all the litter collected. Luggage weigh scales are perfect for this. This aspect is ideal to get a bit of healthy competition on the go. Maybe even offer a prize for the team with the biggest haul.
The final step is to submit the totals to MCS on their website. Whoever submits the totals will need to register, create an event, and enter your totals (club social secretary maybe). It then creates a nice summary that you can share with the club.
Of course, you can clean a beach without filling in a survey but when it’s this easy to help science and support national litter-busting efforts, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. You can probably find litter pick equipment to borrow locally too, try asking local groups and charities or use a litter pick station location: https://2minute.org/Locations
I look forward to seeing all your photos from your club beach cleans! Please share on social channels using the hashtag #BSACdivers - I hope you have an awesome day diving and cleaning your favourite sites.