The UK’s leading marine charity has joined forces with Waitrose to create a new series of events to get more people cleaning and recording litter from England’s beaches and rivers.
The upmarket grocer will donate £500,000 from its plastic bag funds to Marine Conservation Society (MCS), who will organise around 1000 beach and river clean-ups during 2017/18 in an effort to fight back against the rising tide of plastic litter on beaches.
The Waitrose Beach and River Clean-up series will kick off during MCS’s Great British Beach Clean event from September 15.
For the first time, many of the plastics removed from the beaches and rivers will be sorted and recycled, giving them a second life as new products.
MCS has worked with Waitrose in the past on its sustainable seafood programme.
“The marine environment is important to all of us so the MCS beach and river cleans – with their focus on reducing pollution from materials such as plastics – were an obvious choice when thinking where to donate some of our plastic carrier bag funds,” Waitrose head of sustainability Tor Harris said.
“It’s our first step in donating £1 million to projects to tackle plastic pollution.”
It’s not the first time Waitrose has moved to become more environmentally-friendly, having recently announced that all of its own-label packaging, across all food categories, would be widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025.
The grocer also committed to only sell paper stem cotton buds, to ensure no products had microbeads, as well as plans to sell easier-to-recycle triangular sandwich wrappers this August — whereby the film window will be easily removable from the rest of the pack so the cardboard will be easier to recycle.
“We’re excited to invite our customers and partners (employees) to take part in local coast and river cleans to improve the areas for wildlife and all of us,” Harris added.
During the MCS 2016 Great British Beach Clean, 268,384 individual items of litter were collected at 364 events by just under 6000 volunteers.
Sandwich containers, along with crisp, sweet and lolly wrappers, were the third-highest find with almost 44 items per 100m.
“Our beaches are suffering, and most of the litter found can be traced back to us – the general public. But we can all do something positive to help – find your nearest event and get stuck in,” MCS beachwatch manager Lauren Eyles said.
“We’re delighted that Waitrose are investing in our clean-up programme and are backing this up with commitments to reduce single-use plastics in packaging.”