Southern Co-op clears the coast for Co-operatives Fortnight

'We wanted to get involved in marine conversation and combat issues around plastics. There have been a lot of local concerns about rubbish along our shore lines'

Volunteers from the Southern Co-op braved the heatwave to clean five beaches during the Co-operatives Fortnight – picking up nearly 23kg of litter, 20 bags of rubbish and a bucketful of glass.

The retailer says the campaign was a success and plans an additional beach clean later in the year.

Gemma Lacey, director of sustainability and communications at Southern Co-op, said: “We always try to do something during Co-operatives Fortnight, which makes a difference in our local community as well as promoting working co-operatively.

“We wanted to get involved in marine conversation and combat issues around plastics. There have been a lot of local concerns about rubbish along our shore lines so we thought this opportunity was perfect.”

Southern Co-op volunteers cleaning Bracklesham Bay beach (Photo: The Southern Co-op)

She added: “They have been very hot days but everyone has battled on and collected everything from cigarette butts and fast food containers to sweet packets and plastic bags. There was even mesh left behind from old barbecues.

“We encourage our colleagues to volunteer throughout the year and are very proud of everyone who took part this fortnight to make a difference to our local beach. We will also continue to raise awareness of the need to responsibly use and dispose of plastic items which will help to keep our beaches clean in the future.”

The projects were possible through a partnership between the Southern Co-op and the Wildlife Trusts and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) Hampshire.

Together with Avon Wildlife Trust the co-op’s volunteers cleaned Portishead beach on 27 June.

Somerset Wildlife Trust said: “At this time of year, and in this weather, being on the beach is a fantastic way to boost our health and wellbeing, and gives us the chance to appreciate the brilliant wildlife that can be seen on our coastline. Seeing litter and rubbish on the beaches however can have the opposite effect, and can also have grave consequences for our bird and marine life.”

On 28 June the co-op teamed up with Somerset Wildlife Trust to clean Berron and Brean Beaches in Burnham-On-Sea. They also worked with Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust to clean Hayling Island.

Steph Watson, fundraising officer at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “We had a fantastic time on Hayling seafront, everyone put in a great effort, especially considering the heat. It is a great feeling to help to clean up a small corner of the coastline and a real eye opener as to where all the rubbish comes from.”

Volunteers at work on a beach as part of the campaign

Bracklesham Bay was also cleaned on 11 July with Sussex Wildlife Trust while Dorset Wildlife Trust partnered with the co-op’s volunteers to clean Chesil Beach on 13 July.

Sarah Ward, living seas officer at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “Beach cleaning is a fundamental approach to reducing plastic pollution in our seas and on our beaches and it’s really great that the Southern Co-op is encouraging its staff to get involved. Their efforts have prevented this litter to continue to pollute the sea and will feed into a national dataset on beach litter – well done everyone!’”

In addition to the beach cleaning campaign, the Southern Co-op has been collaborating with the Wildlife Trust for its community engagement programme ‘Love Your Neighbourhood’, which aims to promote: ‘Greener’, ‘Healthier’, ‘Safer’, and ‘More Inclusive’ neighbourhoods.

Julie Doherty, people and wildlife programme manager at Avon Wildlife Trust, said: “Working with the team from Southern Co-op to do a beach clean at Portishead brought to light the variety of rubbish found along our coast and demonstrated just how much can be achieved in a relatively short amount of time.”

Sally Cooper, corporate development officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, also said: “Southern Co-op staff came to join us early and in impressive number on 13 July. They brought with them a brilliant enthusiasm for the task. The beach looked clean when we arrived but on closer inspection we came across lots of smaller pieces of plastic – as well as finding those big items like disposable barbecues that people leave behind.”

More information about the Southern Co-op’s campaign to secure a sustainable future is available on its website.

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