It’s an issue that we can’t ignore any more. The shocking revelation that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish has spurred thousands of people to take action around the country.
And Scarborough is no exception.
Walking towards the meeting point near the Scarborough Spa, I was stunned to see such the huge crowd had gathered eagerly awaiting the opening speech by organiser Steve Crawford – who seemed just as shocked as I was.
At The Scarborough News we have been campaigning since January on marine litter, and it was amazing to see just how many people had taken the step to make a difference.
Almost 200 people attended the Surfers Against Sewage event at the weekend – compared to just 35 litter pickers at the beach clean in October last year.
Steve Crawford, Surfers Against Sewage representative for Scarborough, said: “It’s the biggest turnout we’ve ever had by a huge amount.
“There’s a lot more awareness at the moment about litter on the beach.
“It’s been hammered home the last six months on what’s happening around the world and I think people can’t ignore it any more.
“People are becoming more aware that we can make a difference.”
The huge influx of volunteers ensured that in just a couple of hours the mass clean-up team had collected around 500kg of rubbish – some of which has been littering the coast for years.
Volunteers teamed up to roll tyres, carry rusted railings and cut free tangled netting which had been uncovered in the recent stormy weather.
Steve, who has been representative for eight years, added: “All these storms we’ve had recently has uncovered a lot of stuff that’s been for years and years. We cut away netting which had been there for years and there’s a big tub of concrete that we might have to make into a statue or something because we can’t move it.”
But what has encouraged so many to get involved and start making a difference?
The Bowles family, equipped with a six-week-old baby Jack and a dog named Snoop, travelled from York to take part in their first beach clean.
“It’s something worthwhile,” said Taff Bowles. “It’s my birthday today and what better way to spend it than coming to a beach clean. It’s a good family thing to do.”
His son Chris Bowles added: “This is our first beach clean. I’m part of a Facebook group and I found out about it through that. It’s a good way of getting people out and helping make a little bit of a difference.
“I think more people are taking notice of how much they are putting into our oceans.”
While for some volunteers Scarborough is their home town, others had travelled hours to show their support for the seaside town.
Steve, who owns Fluid Concept Surf Shop, added: “Traditionally we’ve had more people travel over 100 miles to come to the beach clean than we’ve had people from Scarborough’s doorstep come. Surfers are among the worst for attendance. It was good to see a lot of local people at Saturday’s event.”
Families also made the most of the milder weather and dozens of children were able to take part and get involved.
Norman Hayes, from Nottingham, attended the beach clean with wife Emma and daughters Polly, aged seven, and Hetty, and four. He said: “We have a caravan here and I surf this beach. It’s great to see so many people getting involved. It’s just a great atmosphere, it’s how it should be.
“The fact there is free food and drink is a real incentive for people – not like people should need an incentive.
“It’s good to be able to bring Polly and Hettie along to get involved too.”
For many the national media coverage this year has given them the push they need to get involved.
Sarah Dyson, who returned to Scarborough in 2010, said: “With Blue Planet 2 everyone realises just how serious the problem is. Leaving litter to be washed into the sea can be so detrimental to the marine life and everything that feeds of it. More people are thinking about what’s going into our system.
“I think people are becoming more aware.”
The success of the clean-up carried on into the evening where a film night was held at Blue Crush, in North Bay, with a raffle and free beer. The event managed to raise £652 for Surfers Against Sewage.
Steve has thanked everyone for coming along as well as FlipnFast for providing crêpes for the volunteers, Paul Tomlinson for help advertising and Patagonia and Magic Rock for sponsorship.
What else did volunteers say?
Max Hendrick and Emma Buchanan, who both live in Scarborough, said: “We live here, the beach is a big part of our lives and we spend a lot of time here. It’s so important that the beach is clean.”
Lisa Piechowicz, 26, showed her commitment to the cause and travelled from Burton-on-Trent with partner Mike Mason. She said: “We do surf so I guess since we began surfing we’ve got more involved. We’ve always shown a real interest in clean beaches and I think people are becoming more aware. It’s also about the safety of the wildlife, fish are ingesting plastics and we could be eating that too.
“We’ve come to quite a few beach cleans over the last couple of years.”
Jill Allen and Joanne Lawrance, who both live in Snainton, brought dog Bess along to the beach to show their support.
Jill said: “We’re here to show our support for people who rely on the beach to be a good way of attracting people to Scarborough.
“South Bay doesn’t have the best reputation for water quality so whatever we can do to make the beach cleaner is important.”
While Joanne added: “I’m disgusted by the amount of rubbish on the beach especially during the summer. It’s really fantastic to see so many people out here today.
“The youngsters will remember doing this today and maybe families will take more notice and won’t drop litter next time.”
Scarborough resident Hannah Uranue, who brought children Aritz, aged five, and Xavier, aged three, to the beach clean said: “We come for walks on the beach and we constantly pick up other people’s litter. Events like this is something to do which I can bring Aritz and Xavier to. It’s surprising how much you pick up. It’s been quite a quiet Easter we’ve still got a bag of stuff.”