A small group making big waves in Spain
Every now and then here over at Ocean Scuba Dive we come across inspirational people who are taking the world by storm. We are so passionate about the efforts being made around the world to support ocean conservation and are proud to feature and share these stories with you.
Taking the spotlight today are the Coastal Cleaners Andalucía, a small group making big waves in Spain. This group consists of volunteers who have been brought together by one lady, in particular, Sue Parmenter-Phillips. She is a clear example of how making small conservational actions, then multiplying them by like-minded people, really can achieve results!
Read on to find out all about the Coastal Cleaners Andalucía from Sue herself, their mission for the future and get inspired to do the same in your area!
Who are the Coastal Cleaners Andalucía?
Coastal Cleaners Andalucia, are a group of volunteers based in the Almeria area, part of the Andalucia region of South East Spain, started as a small group who met up and cleaned litter from local beaches and coastlines. Their activities have now grown to encompass educational and business incentives and their efforts are being well received by the local community.
What do the Coastal Cleaners Andalucía do?
Set up in late March 2018 Coastal Cleaners Andalucia have collectively gathered over 300 rubbish sacks worth of litter in just 9 gatherings! When you consider that the groups usually consist of between 6 and 20 individuals and the picks are at most 2 hours from start to finish…that’s a lot of litter.
Most of what they seem to find are from consumables, with water bottles, drinking straws, crisp packets, drink cans, plastic bags, lighters and cigarette butts making up the majority. Also ranking high on the frequently offending items are fishing line, netting and agricultural items like irrigations piping, cable ties, and polystyrene trays. Basically, 98% is plastic in one form or another.
Coastal Cleaners Andalucía’s Mission
Like most of us, I imagine, I see on a near daily basis both shocking news stories of the effects of plastic pollution…Whales washed up dead with 25kg of plastic in their stomachs, Albatross chicks being fed micro-plastics and turtles, seals and birds ensnared in nets, line, and bags. Along with reports of the action being taken in all areas of the world by groups like Sea Shepherds, Ocean Defenders, Paddlers against plastic, Parley for the Oceans and many others who are fighting the good fight at various levels from local communities to Government policy making. Rather than focus on the bad (and damn right depressing), I use it instead to instigate change, create ideas and inspire others to where ever possible choose to be part of the solution.
In today’s society, a lot of people have become removed from nature, seeing themselves as apart from and different from animals, fish, and birds. Part of what Coastal Cleaners aim to do is to reconnect people to the natural world. Encouraging them to spend time outside, breathing in the air, feeling the wind, listening to the waves, witnessing the underwater world by snorkeling or diving and experiencing the natural beauty that surrounds us by visiting new places. Basically reminding ourselves how incredible our planet is and showing by example how we can change our destructive habits and make more conscious, informed decisions in our everyday lives.
For instance, we have recently begun a Coastal Cleaners Approved scheme. Focussing mainly on the industry I work in of Bars and Restaurants. It comprises a checklist of 10 things where more eco-friendly options could be employed to reduce the creation of plastic waste. For example glass returnable water bottles, paper or biodegradable drinking straws and finger bowls rather than lemon wet wipes.
The idea is that venues who can tick off at least 7 of the 10 will be awarded Coastal Cleaners Approved status and receive a logo to display on the premises and on their social media, showing their customers that they are committed to environmentally sustainable practices. One of the things we find on a regular basis is plastic drinking straws. Used for less than an hour they then sit on the earth or in the sea for the next 100 years. Currently neither paper nor biodegradable are easily available or competitively priced here in Spain. So we decided to purchase them ourselves to make the change an easier step for bars and restaurants to adopt.
Coastal Cleaners Andalucia’s Events
We are also about to hold our first Plastic Free Picnic on a local beach. A beach clean will be followed by swimming, paddle boarding, sand sculptures and a jam session with guitars and drums while we eat and drink. The idea is to encourage people to use Tupperware style packaging and refillables rather than pre-packaged cling film and single us plastic items.
Our events and activities are based around achieving the following four objectives, with a possible 5th more personal one along the way.
- To clean the beaches, seas and coastal areas for both the benefit of marine life and wild life as well as humans.
- To educate about the damage rubbish and plastic pollution does and ways to prevent and reduce it.
- To get people involved, connected and inspired through group activities and projects. Including as wide a spectrum of different people as we can.
- To encourage people to spend time outdoors. On the water, in the water, on beaches and generally surrounded by nature.
- To spend time outdoors, having fun, doing the things I love while surrounded by like-minded people.
In order to do this, I like to vary the activities. We have had easily accessible beach cleans that people of almost any age and level of physical fitness can take part in, short casual cleans to an eatery, large-scale cleanups of particularly bad areas and kayak days that involve a clean as part of a fun day on the water, kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling.
Including a wide base of people is achieved by our home-grown approach. One of my longest known friends designed our beautiful logo (pinkfrogcreatives) and now a lady I work with who is a talented artist is making a stamp of the logo for us to use. Within my group of friends and acquaintances, I have discovered ethical advisors, workhorses, people with business acumen, first aiders, delivery men, networkers, promoters and almost every skill set I could possibly need along the way.
To be honest… I had no idea of the journey in store for me when I started cleaning the beaches while walking my dog. In fact, I was initially very resistant to the suggestion of setting up a group and involving other people. Now I am finding myself inspired and motivated daily. I see so many benefits to what we do, way more than ‘just’ a cleaner healthier coast and marine world. In the moments that I let myself dream a little, I see so much potential that some days I can’t wait to see where this all leads!
To learn more about our work and to follow our story, please take a look at our Facebook page Coastal Cleaners Andalucía.
What an inspirational story and mission which started by just one person. We can’t wait to see where this journey leads you Sue and I have no doubt that Ocean Scuba Dive will keep up with the Coastal Cleaners Andalucía efforts going forwards!