I joined Surfers Against Sewage as a member in the 1990s and helped bring attention to the issue by carrying around a giant inflatable poo, much to the amusement of local media and the horror of Yorkshire Water! Those early campaigns pushed heavily on a key piece of legislation – the EU Bathing Water Directive and it was a huge victory for SAS when the water companies were pressured into spending £5 billion on sewerage treatment plants and infrastructure. It changed my life as a surfer overnight.
I’m now a volunteer Regional Rep and the thing that makes SAS special to me is that we continually evolve to face new challenges and find new solutions. Right now, our biggest concern is plastic pollution. Buckets, spades, beach balls, flip-flops and mesh packaging is a massive problem on my local beach this year. Once those mesh nets get into the ocean, they could ghost-fish for the next 600 years, entangling fish, birds, turtles, dolphins and seals. And the smaller pieces of plastic can be mistaken for food by these sea animals and starve them to death. So many plastic items have become disposable and by the end of the day, Scarborough beach is completely covered in it.
With the support network of SAS behind me, I organise community beach cleans. And what I like about SAS is that we’re continually trying to get to the root cause behind things. The chain needs to be affected and we need to hit everyone we can along it, from manufacturers to retailers to consumers, so we can prevent the plastic getting on to the beach in the first place. Recently, I started finding a lot of plastic cups on the beach and I traced it back to Scarborough Amusements. I took the hundreds of cups I’d collected off the beach and went to show the managers to explain the damage that they caused. They were giving out change in these plastic cups and they just hadn’t realised the problem. So they changed the cups to paper ones. That’s just a small example, but it just shows, you can sit there and grumble about it or you can get involved with SAS and do something.
I have a dream! One day, we’ll all go down to a beach clean and look around and realise there is nothing to do. There is no plastic in sight, no nurdles, nothing, it’s pristine. So we’ll all just go and get a cup of coffee and look at the sea. That’s the end goal. And there’s lots of ways that we can get there.”