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UK charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has launched its ‘Million Mile Beach Clean’ initiative that seeks to tackle the threat of plastic pollution to marine wildlife.

The Cornwall-based charity hopes to inspire 100,000 people to clean up their local beach, river, street, or green spaces, to clear a million miles by the end of 2021, as part of the ‘million mile’ environmental campaign.

It also aims to encourage people to get out locally as lockdown eases to tackle litter and plastic waste on streets, country lanes, parks and along waterways, as well as beaches. The campaigners hope the efforts will protect our oceans, and the beaches and wildlife across the UK.

“The ocean is under threat and we are running out of time to save it. We want to inspire an army of ocean activists to join the cause and put an end to plastic pollution in the UK,” said Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage.

He added: “After more than a year of isolation, social distancing and reduced physical activity, the Million Mile Beach Clean reconnects communities with the environment and provides many benefits to mental health and physical wellbeing.”

Aerial views of a 50m sand drawing created by Sand In Your Eye for Surfers Against Sewage's new Million Mile Beach Clean campaign, on Cayton Bay in Yorkshire

Surfers Against Sewage have marked the launch of their “million mile beach clean” with a 50m sand drawing of a seal surrounded by plastic on Cayton Bay in Yorkshire.

Image credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The initiative will run throughout 2021, but the first week of action will take place between 15 and 23 May, with the organisation calling for “clean leaders” to register to lead a clean-up event during the week.

The campaign comes as a survey of 2,000 British adults conducted by Opinium for Surfers Against Sewage showed that more than half (54 per cent) thought Covid-19 had led to an increase in plastic pollution.

Some 59 per cent of those surveyed said they had seen more waste in their area in the last 12 months, while just under a fifth (18 per cent) admitted they had bought more plastic items as a result of the pandemic, and the same proportion had opted for disposable face masks rather than reusable ones.

he 50m sand drawing being created by Sand In Your Eye for Surfers Against Sewage's new Million Mile Beach Clean campaign

Image credit: Richard McCarthy

Tagholm, who is also an environmentalist, award-winning campaigner, and surfer, urged people to sign up for the initiative to help make a difference.

The initiative will last throughout the United Nations (UN) Decade of Ocean Science, delivering a million miles a year – 10 million by 2030. It also coincides with SAS’s 10-year ambition of ending plastic pollution on UK beaches by 2030.

Gillian Burke, a wildlife presenter and biologist who is supporting the initiative, said: “Making the connection between mental health and environment is key in mobilising communities in the right way and the million mile beach clean does just that. 100,000 volunteers, each cleaning their local beach or river or street or mountain – the impact speaks for itself.”

Surfers Against Sewage was created in 1990 by a group of Cornish surfers from the villages of St Agnes and Porthtowan on the north coast of Cornwall.

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