By Emma Fashokun, manager of the Cornish Gems Coffee Lounge, with contributions from Florence Makhlouf

One of the lovely benefits of living in, or visiting, St Ives and other coastal towns and villages in Cornwall are the beautiful beaches. Whether enjoying a sun-soaked August day, building sandcastles with the children, enjoying a bracing walk across the sand in November, or — if you are a year-round surfing enthusiast — plunging into the sea, our beaches offer an enviable lifestyle.

Sadly, all too often discarded plastic will mar their natural beauty and damage the habitats that are our coastlines. In St Ives, we are blessed with some of Cornwall’s best beaches, but they usually look pretty clean. So why do we need to have beach-cleaning sessions?

For whatever reason, not all users of our beaches take their rubbish home to be disposed of correctly. Single-use plastic bottles are a big culprit. Part of our mission at Plastic Free St Ives has been to reduce the sale of these, and we now have many champions in local businesses who no longer sell drinks in plastic bottles. Despite this, thousands of soft drinks are still purchased and consumed, and their containers discarded. When we beach clean, we are able to recycle these plastic bottles.

It’s not all about the plastic. On our beach cleans we often find broken glass and scrap metal. We are helping to keep our beaches safe for families, dogs and all users by removing sharp and potentially dangerous objects.

‘Ingesting tiny particles can prevent animals from consuming natural prey, leading to starvation and death’

We’ve often been surprised by how a beach which looks clean from afar is still contaminated by small pieces of plastic. Cigarette butts, polystyrene beads and other micro-plastics are only visible when you get close up. The removal of these is very important to our marine creatures, who are at risk of ingesting them. A study conducted at Exeter University concluded that: “Ingesting the tiny particles can prevent animals … from consuming their natural prey, leading to starvation and even death.”

We believe in acting locally and thinking globally, and by removing waste from our beaches we are preventing debris from travelling in the sea to other coastlines. With the rise in awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans we hope that other ocean-loving communities will do their bit and prevent debris travelling to us!

Volunteering for a beach clean is a great way to get outside and join other local residents. Walking in the fresh air, meeting new people, and participating with your family in an activity which is good for your community and the planet … all these have got to be good things! Keep up to date with local beach cleans by visiting our Facebook page