In part 2 of our Plastic Free July Q&A series, we speak with Bill Dale, Founder of local Isle of Man charity, Beach Buddies, to find out more about what they as an organisation are doing to combat plastic pollution.
I was walking my dogs on the beach in 2006 and the dogs started bringing me pieces of plastic from amongst the sand dunes and rushes. We found huge amounts of litter and over the following six weekends, moved 30,000 pieces of plastic. We haven’t stopped since!
I have a background in journalism, photography and newspapers, so the media/online communication has been very important and has led to more people joining us.
Because of the stigma attached to picking up other peoples’ rubbish, I hardly told anyone how I was spending my weekends, but soon realised that this was too big a job for one person (100 miles of coastline).
I sent out a press release and the response was immediate – 80 volunteers in two weeks; 1,500 within a year. Today, we have had more than 17,000 different volunteers from a population of circa 85,000.
Yes! Beach Buddies (an Isle of Man registered charity) welcomes people of all ages ; we have had babies and great grandmothers!
The most efficient lines of communication are online (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.) plus, we have a lot of support from the local media (newspapers/websites/radio stations). We have a large list of volunteers who also receive weekly email bulletins. Average attendance at our Sunday morning group volunteer events is around 60-70; sometimes a lot more and other times fewer (particularly on freezing cold days in January!).
Without doubt, the most important achievement for us has been engaging with children in schools. This is where we are trying to “break the chain” of rubbish entering the environment.
To date, this has been an outstanding success and all schools in the Isle of Man have engaged with this project. Consequently, we have been described as having the Island with the world’s cleanest beaches – in the Isle of Man, we have known this for some time!
We have also had some other major achievements, including:
• Setting up branches of Beach Buddies worldwide, including the USA, Hawaii, Hong Kong, and all across the British Isles.
• Being selected by former Prime Minister, Theresa May, for her ‘Points of Light’ award;
• Being specifically mentioned by UNESCO for our achievements when the Isle of Man was awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status in 2017;
• Being invited to join the network of environmental groups as part of the “Waterbear” online streaming website, which tackles worldwide wildlife and environmental issues.
Other worldwide links include a recent online presentation in Bermuda, another in Florida, as well as regular presentations and field trips for Ohio State University. We have also achieved excellent publicity (over 300 million viewers) via BBC World News, National Geographic magazine, The Guardian newspaper, The Metro, BBC NorthWest, Border ITV, ITV News – and this continues.
Engaging with people – especially schools – about how we can together defeat this problem of pollution in the environment by taking simple actions which work. And meeting thousands of like-minded people at the same time who feel inspired to take action. On this level, the Isle of Man is leading the world.
We really want to spread the word around the world about what can be achieved by ordinary people simply getting together because they care.
We already have branches in other countries, but only on a small scale. We would love to create a huge worldwide network of like-minded people who are happy to give an hour of their time now and again to solve this problem.
Beach Buddies has found the answer to solving this problem of rubbish/trash destroying the environment; with a simple message (mostly via education in schools) we can all help to end this problem immediately by not allowing rubbish to get into the environment in the first place, i.e. dispose of your rubbish properly and recycle everything you possibly can.
We don’t have huge resources but we would love to be able to spread our message around the world in respect of what can be achieved by volunteers simply getting together and cleaning up the planet; not just on beaches but everywhere.
If anyone throws rubbish anywhere in the street; no matter how far from the ocean; it will eventually end up in the sea via drains, streams and rivers. Most rubbish in the oceans (85%) is arriving via rivers. If we stop it at source, we can solve this problem.
Our ultimate dream is for a big company to take on this idea and sponsor a worldwide clean-up campaign that is based on the very simple methodology that we have created – Why? Because it works! You just have to come to the Isle of Man and see what we have done as a nation!
We also need to donations to expand our network so any donation, no matter how small, can make a big difference as is hugely appreciated. To find out more on how to get involved or to donate visit www.beachbuddies.net.