How communities are coming together to tackle plastic

By BEL JACOBS


Earlier this month, at Chapel St. Leonards in Lincolnshire, a group of ordinary people in fleeces and coats moved along a broad stretch of beach, picking up small bits of plastic watch and depositing them into large white rubbish bags. The day was just one instance of Big Blue Ocean Clean Up, a globally-focussed, Cornwall-based campaign group, in action.

Big Blue Ocean Cleanup is just one of a number of non-profit, community reliant organisations tackling plastic pollution. The work is broad and multi-faceted: groups travel constantly from coast to coast, helping keep coastlines clean and protect marine wildlife, while the education program goes into schools to teach the new generation about the importance and care of our oceans. At the same time, advanced technologies to rid the world's oceans of plastic are funded and supported. Big Blue Ocean Cleanup currently works with a variety of NGO's, charities and governmental platforms to help bring real change to the Antarctic Ocean. Find out more here: www.bigblueoceancleanup.org and sign its petition to save the Antarctic here

Over 2 million people across 150 countries took up the challenge to #choosetorefuse single-use plastic for #PlasticFreeJuly, making it the most successful, dynamic campaign yet. The month may be over but communities around the country - whether physical or online, charitable or informal - are continuing to work - hard. Here are five of the best.


 Online community BBC Plastics Action brings together astounding content.

Online community BBC Plastics Action brings together astounding content.

1. BBC’s Plastics Action page brings together the best content from around the BBC including news, documentaries and consumer programmes - to help you discover everything you want to know about plastics. It’s a collaboration with the Open University and offers piles of information on new solutions and practical tips. Currently up for viewing: videos by Sir David Attenborough, thanking viewers for current actions, asking whether plastic is the new fur, tracing the history of plastic in The Wonder of Plastic as well as a link to the Open University’s page on plastics. Comprehensive.


2.  Meander the canals of East London and you may come across a small punt filled with laughing school children. The punt will be the Poly-Mer, the world’s first recycled plastic boat. And the children? They’ll be fishing for plastic, scooping waste out of the water to create another punt just like this one. Launched by London-based environmental charity Hubbub, the Poly-Mer is part of a new wave of Plastic Fishing trips taking place in and around London's Docklands to fish plastic out of the river. The charity intends to make more boats like Poly-Mer from the collected plastic litter, creating a recycled flotilla to help clean our waterways. Book a plastic fishing trip here: www.hubbub.org.uk


 Big Blue Ocean Cleanup is making waves.

Big Blue Ocean Cleanup is making waves.

3. Multi-faceted Cornwall-based non-profit Big Blue Ocean Cleanup is making waves and keeping them going in tackling plastic pollution. Teams help keep coastlines clean and protect marine wildlife, with groups travelling constantly from coast to coast, while the education program goes into schools to teach the new generation about the importance and care of our oceans; advanced technologies to rid the world's oceans of plastic are funded and supported. Big Blue Ocean Cleanup currently works with a variety of NGO's, charities and governmental platforms to help bring real change to the Antarctic Ocean. Find out more here: www.bigblueoceancleanup.org and sign its petition to save the Antarctic here


 The campaign encourages beachgoers to clean up beaches they visit.

The campaign encourages beachgoers to clean up beaches they visit.

4. Ever been part of a #2minutebeachclean? Now, most definitely, is the time to start. The campaign, brainchild of the non-profit Beach Clean Network, encourages beachgoers to clean up the beaches they visit, just 2 minutes at a time. #2minutebeachclean came about when the network’s co-founder, surfer and beach lover Martin Dorey saw the tons of plastic litter thrown onto British beaches by a series of North Atlantic storms in 2013. The campaign has since become one of the fastest growing online environmental movements of recent times, with 400 beach clean stations now dotted across the UK. It works: trials in 2015 demonstrated a 61% decrease in beach litter logged. And it’s not just the UK; beach cleans are taking place all over the world. On World Oceans Day, on June 8th this year, Borey received the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers whose work is making a real difference to ocean conservation. Get involved: https://beachclean.net/. Twitter: @2minutebeachclean. Instagram: @2minutebeachclean. Facebook: @2minutebeachclean 


 We can all do something.

We can all do something.

5. While not strictly a community initiative, the role of everyday activism becomes more vital. A friend bought two rolls in the local Co-Op the other day and, reluctant to reach for a clear plastic bag, looked for options. None. So she took the rolls up to the counter, said she’d really rather not use any plastic and that she’d be fine carrying the rolls out of the shop as is. “The guy behind the till looked bewildered,” she told me. “But the woman in the queue behind me completely agreed. I found the fact that we were having a conversation about plastic in one of the places where it’s most used really encouraging.” The tone was light and friendly, she says, which helped. From refusing straws in cafes (and explaining why to staff) to returning packaging at the till, we can all do something. The only thing you need is conviction in your ‘cause’ - and, in the case of plastic, who lacks that?