The Salt-Water Birling Gap Beach Clean

The Salt-Water Birling Gap Beach Clean

Here at Salt-Water Sandals we have always had a very strong relationship with The Marine Conservation Society. We have been working together for a few years now; from collaborative competitions, to designing special edition sandals with a seaside theme.


This year we decided to name our Turquoise Original as the official MCS Sandal with 10% of all proceeds going directly to The Marine Conservation Society.


To help out in person, this August we decided to put our feet first and step onto the MCS’s turf in way of a Beach Clean. All our families were invited and off we went to Birling Gap for a day out of the office + 2 members of our PR team from Push PR

Beachwatch is the Marine Conservation Society’s national beach cleaning and litter surveying programme – helping people all around the UK to care for their coastline. Better yet, anyone can get involved!

Levels of beach litter have doubled in the past two decades and almost nowhere in the UK seas is marine wildlife safe from the harm that this litter and waste can cause. Hundreds of species find themselves accidentally eating or becoming caught up and entangled in discarded litter. Not to mention that it also has an awful effect on UK tourism and the fishing industries.

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On our beach clean we learnt just how long it really takes for litter to fully decompose – and the results were not just shocking but completely eye opening. Did you know a plastic bag can take anything between 20-50+ years to fully disintegrate? A plastic bottle – up to 1000 years! And what about glass? A glass bottle discarded after a beach BBQ or not recycled correctly will never fully decompose. Yup, that’s forever sitting at the bottom of our oceans harming our marine life.
I mean, we all knew it was happening but what can we do about it?

The Marine Conservation Society gives you the option of organizing your own beach clean or even easier – volunteering with an already existing group – there is no excuse.

With the help & guidance of the lovely Kate from the MCS we were ready to go! Well after dipping our Salties in the water and a quick ice cream stop…

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We were met by Kate in a café on Birling Gap and she gave us a bit of background about The Marine Conservation Society, their work and their beach cleans AKA Beachwatch. We were upset to learn that only 1% of the UK seas are protected and that only 10,000 people volunteer to help clean the UK’s beaches every year. We were very excited to get our day started and try and help as much as we could.

We started with a ‘fishy quiz’ on our UK marine life and litter problems. Did you know that over a TRILLION cigarette butts enter the environment every year?! Or that over 100million hammerhead sharks are slaughtered worldwide every year, just for their fins? After learning these devastating facts we were more pumped up than ever and ready to CLEAN!

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We took ourselves to the stunningly scenic beach of Birling Gap armed with protective gloves, bin bags, and litter pickers – on first look at the beautiful coast we wondered whether we would even find anything to clean. It was picturesque and seemed to be in good nick…

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We split off into teams of two and it didn’t take long for us to be proven wrong. We were shocked by the amount (and variety) of litter on this seemingly ‘clean’ coastline. From plastic, to batteries, to rope, to a pair of pants!


In just under an hour, on a strip of 100m of the beach, our small but mighty team collected 538 items including the following (and these were just the easily identifiable items!)

- 32 caps and lids
- 26 fishing net pieces
- 77 small/medium plastic pieces
- 13 balloon related pieces
- 51 packets of varying uses
- 27 wet wipes
- 54 pieces of string, cord, and rope

It was not surprising to learn that 73.0% of the rubbish we collected was plastic/polystyrene. Needless to say, there are no plastic bottles allowed in our offices anymore!


Once we had completed our day of cleaning we went back to the café to compare litter notes and create a ‘litter timeline’ with everyday objects found on beaches. We were given an array of items and lots of different cards with different time frames and had to guess which item went with which card.
After some – shall we say heated – discussions we settled on our timeline and after getting it wrong (4 times!!) we finally got the seal of approval from MCS’s Kate.

For your information, here is our full timeline and time it takes for items to fully decompose. WARNING – some time frames may shock you – and hopefully make you THINK!

Cardboard – 2-5 years
Balloon – 4 years
Plastic Bag – 20-50+ years
Crisp Packet – 75 years
Tin Can – 450 years
Nappy – 500 years
Plastic Bottle – 450-1000 years
Glass – Forever

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At the end of a very thought provoking and eye opening day the Marine Conservation Society treated us to a bit of Rock Pooling on our newly cleaned beach.


With our amazing MCS guide Kate by our side we soon found lots of marine life from crabs, to sea snails, to anemones.

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A couple of anemones we found on our adventures (of course we put them straight back in after the Insta op!)


Finishing off our day like this and seeing all of the marine life in its natural habitat completely highlighted the significance of the Beach Clean and all the hard work The Marine Conservation Society do on a day to day basis.

We would like to ask everyone to GET INVOLVED! Whether you would like to organize your own event in way of a work day out or a family trip to the seaside or maybe just jumping in on an already organised event like The Great British Beach Clean (taking place over the 15th-18th September)– the MCS need your help! More importantly the UK’s seas need your help. Join the Beachwatch today and truly make a difference.


*** Ps: we decided unanimously that the pair of pants won ‘find of the day’

Very sadly 2 weeks after our Beach Clean at Birling Gap, More than 100 people were treated in hospital after a chemical “haze” descended on beachgoers on the East Sussex coastline It is said this unknown haze came from a shipwreck out at Sea.

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