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On Monday 23d July, a group of 50 Mintel volunteers took part in a beach clean organised in association with the Marine Conservation Society at Herne Bay, Kent.

Credit: Gustavo Beduschi Santos

Awareness of ocean pollution hit peak levels last year thanks to the second season of BBC’s Blue Planet II documentary, gaining extensive media coverage and becoming a regular topic in everyday conversations. And with Mintel featuring ‘Sea Change’ as part of our 2018 European Consumer Trends, it’s only natural that Mintel employees were keen to get involved in the cause!

Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant and organiser of the day, said: “Throughout 2018 with our Sea Change project we were alerting our clients to the dangers of ocean plastic and single use packaging. By partnering with the Marine Conservation Society and doing our own beach cleans, we’ve begun to walk the walk, and get some drive and inspiration to change our own behaviours as Mintel and as individuals too.”

Volunteers were initially left baffled when they arrived at a seemingly clean beach, with no sign of big litter items such as bottles, cans and food packaging. But a closer look at the shingle uncovered a multitude of tiny pieces of rubbish almost invisible to the eye, ranging from cotton buds to pen lids, metal caps, cigarette stubs and fragments of rope and wire.

Equipped with gloves, bin bags and litter pickers, Mintel’s beach crew collected 23 kg of rubbish,  including fishing line, fishing nets, glass bottles, nails, fishing hooks, bandages, plastic toys, shotgun cartridges, disposable bbqs, condoms, dog waste, underwear, syringes, balloons, and lobster tags. They were asked to classify every single item they found in the first 100m to help the Marine Conservation Society analyse today’s most common sources of beach litter.

The litter will be separated and recycled, while cigarette butts are going to be turned into tables, billboards and compost materials by Terracycle – a company that specialises in hard-to-recycle waste.

Let’s hear from the employees who took part:

Helen Fricker, Associate Director, Leisure: “It was a great day out and such an eye-opener. I ordered some biodegradable cotton buds and pads as soon as I got home after seeing so many of them washed up on the beach. The beach we went to looked clean but we still found so much rubbish, I can’t imagine what state the ones that don’t get regularly cleaned are like.”

Ceren Bakircioglu, Data Entry Executive, GNPD Operations: “On the day, I worked close to the beach huts at the top of the beach and also on the part of the beach just above where the tide comes up to. I noticed that there was much more rubbish as we came up closer to the huts. As we were getting closer to civilization, the beach was getting uncivilized! It was a worthwhile experience but also highlights how much more awareness there needs to be to try and reduce plastics and waste on our beaches and in the water.”

Alexandru Barbu, Data Entry Executive, GNPD Operations: “I’ve been wanting to do this my whole life, but never had the impulse to actually get involved. This year, thanks to Mintel’s initiative, I was able to clean a mile long beach, with the help of my colleagues, and finally feel that I have helped the planet in some way. I really hope we have inspired others to preserve a clean environment, for the future of our planet.”

Marta Carneiro, Innovation & Insights Manager: “Having the opportunity to get involved in this initiative made me more conscious of what I could change in my own routines to reduce my negative impact on the environment. I’d say if we could all go through a similar experience, the oceans would be less polluted in a much shorter period of time.”

Photo credits: Gustavo Beduschi Santos

But why is plastic pollution such a critical issue and what are its effects on the ocean? Watch this space for an exclusive interview with Tom Hawkins, Coastal Development Officer for Canterbury City Council, to learn more about the cause!