Surfers Against Sewage Launches 10-year Data Collection Plan in Fight Against Ocean Pollution

A new era in the fight against pollution has dawned with the start of ten years of data collection during our Autumn Beach Cleans.

We  want to understand what key materials are washing up on UK beaches, polluting rivers and ending up on city streets, as part of a project to monitor plastic waste. The Ocean Activists Plastic Audit, which will start during this year’s annual Autumn Beach Clean: Summit To Sea (19th – 27th October), will see a network of 30,000+ volunteers collect plastic pollution from their local environment and record what is found in a materials audit that will last for ten years.

Whether on shore or inland, urban or rural, high-tide or high-rise, each audit will be sent back to us to help to create a baseline to start from as of the end of 2019. Data collected will then be used to challenge businesses and government in a bid to tackle the materials polluting the natural environment that we all love. The project is set to coincide with the United Nation’s Decade of Ocean Science For Sustainable Development.

Launching in 2021, the UN project will aim to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health through ‘science-informed policy responses’ by building a framework with ocean stakeholders worldwide to improve conditions for more sustainable development of the ocean – something which SAS hopes to help inform.

It isn’t the first time we have used this system to monitor what is washing up on local shorelines and in rivers, either – audits in the past have helped to inform a ban on the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds (set to come into force in April 2020), introduce a 5p charge on bags and expose the ten big corporations responsible for 63% of packaging pollution. This data has also served to provide evidence for the need for a Deposit Return System to cover all types of bottles and beverage containers, as well as informed a Government consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility for plastic packaging.

But we think that the real success of this system is thanks to engagement from a collective groundswell of citizen scientists all around the country, who were able to gather evidence at a much greater magnitude than conventional techniques.

Now, we hope that, by starting with the Autumn Beach Clean, it will be another opportunity to bring this valuable work into the limelight.

During each clean, willing leaders will simply mark the area they want to audit (100m stretch of beach, river or street), explain to fellow volunteers that an Ocean Activist Plastic Audit is being conducted as part of the clean and, once collected, will sort items into sub-categories by weight and material.

To get involved with your own Citizen Science project or join a beach clean, visit to find out more.

As always, we would like to thank our sponsors; The Crown EstatePostcode Green TrustTrewithen DairyRen SkincareCanoe FoundationParley for the OceansHydroflaskFinisterre and Community & Charity Partners; Surfing EnglandBritish CanoeingThe British Mountaineering CouncilSouth West Coast PathThe Wave ProjectThe Outdoor Swimming Society.

Article written on behalf of SAS by Hazel Murray, toolkit designed by Beth Breeden .