Friday, 1 August 2014

Sea Champion Atlanta Cook's twenty years of beach cleaning!

Here's her story:

"My mum always had an extra plastic bag with her for "other people's rubbish" whenever we went to the park or beach. I learnt that it wasn't cool to drop litter and it didn't give someone a good job. It just made a mess of the place and ended up in the sea floating next to you, or in the stomach of some poor sea bird. So really I started beach cleaning with her back in the 70s.

"I helped set up Surfers Against Sewage's Brighton group in '91, raising awareness of the 80 Olympic sized swimming pools of raw sewage being pumped out of Brighton every day, then went on to set up a group in North Devon group 2000. Organising beach cleans came hand in hand with that, as well as plenty of partying and surfing of course.

"Much has changed over the years, and with 40% of beach litter dropped by the public, plastic bottles are a notable new menace. Drinks were in returnable glass bottles or cans in the 70s, so there was a bigger glass problem on the beaches, but at least it ground down in the sea and didn't store toxic chemicals.

"If someone had told me back then we'd have a toxic plastic soup running through the entire water column by the next millennium I would never have believed that humans could be so reckless...but here we are!

"We desperately need to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we buy. Our food chain is polluted, and we have to protect our food, right?"

Atlanta first started organising MCS beach cleans at Rottingdean in 2006, and after meeting lots of like minded beach combers, she formed the Deans Beach & Environment Volunteers in 2013 with her friend and fellow Sea Champion, Libby Darling. Volunteer numbers grew and grew, and they re-launched in May as The Deans ‘GRAB’ Volunteers -  ‘Gather Rubbish And Bag-it!’

With monthly beach cleans in Saltdean, Rottingdean and Ovingdean, public awareness has certainly been improved, but they are still struggling with a sewage related debris problem (the things people put down the loo but shouldn't) so they've been using our Beachwatch Surveys to try and highlight the problem to local councillors and MPs.

To join in The Deans ‘GRAB’ Volunteers feel good factor, check out their facebook page at or email them at

Want to get involved in beach cleaning? Then Join us for the Great British Beach Clean this September!

Sea Champion Atlanta with her team of "GRAB" beach cleaning volunteers at Rottingdean

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