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  • Molly Doubleday

Surfers Against Sewage: a UK charity working to bring our oceans back from the edge

Surfers Against Sewage are a UK charity that are fighting to protect our oceans, by empowering ocean activists everywhere.


With the arrival of summer and the welcome easing of Covid-19 restrictions in the UK, many of us are flocking to enjoy our wild spaces again, with the coast being top of the list. We are blessed with some stunning coastlines in the UK, but these are under threat.


It seems every time I visit my local beach, I am confronted with yet more plastic litter, crudely tarnishing an otherwise idyllic stretch of sandy beach. Disposable face masks and gloves becoming all too common.


Although I faithfully take a bag with me on my beach visits, to remove what I can, there is always more on my return. The scale of the issue can feel insurmountable. Can individual efforts really make a difference?


Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is proof that these efforts do have an impact. They are a Cornwall-based charity, that started in 1990, with the original aim to reduce the sewage influx into our seas that was threatening surfer’s health.


Since then, this charity has grown and their goals have become even more ambitious, with the mission to ‘create ocean activists everywhere for a thriving ocean and thriving people'. How do they do this? With an effective three-pronged strategy, including beach cleans, campaigns and education.


Clean water

This charity is at the front line in fighting for clean water, with the goal to end sewage discharge into UK bathing waters by 2030. Shockingly, there are still 21,462 licensed sewer overflows across England and Wales.


To combat this, this charity created the innovative award-winning Safer Seas Service, which is the only national real-time water quality service that protects water users from pollution.


Climate change campaigns

The threats to our oceans have become more and more apparent, with documentaries (including the recent Netflix documentary Seaspiracy), shining a light on the devastating impact of climate change, pollution and overexploitation of marine life.


SAS are tackling this head on, with an ambition for the UK to be net zero carbon by 2030. They are campaigning for ‘blue bounce back’ from Covid-19, which calls for government to put the ocean and other natural environments are the centre of recovery.


As the next generation will be vital in this fight to protect our oceans, an important part of SAS’s mission is working with schools, to provide curriculum that educates and inspires our young people.


Taking this one step further, SAS ran a Youth ocean and climate summit on World Ocean Day (8 June 2021) and the inclusion of young representatives provided a much-needed platform to elevate youth’s voices to communicate directly with government.


War on plastic

As the rise of plastic pollution reaches an all-time high, with an eye-watering 12 million tonnes of plastic pouring into the ocean every year, fighting this plastic pollution has become the priority for SAS.


They aim to halt plastic pollution at its source, by challenging industry standards and consumer behaviour. Initiatives like plastic free communities and plastic free schools pave the way for changing consumer’s behaviour and halting plastic encroachment at our coasts.


Plastic free awards, a scheme initiated by SAS, encourages more sustainable habits as it applauds champions from all walks of life that go above and beyond in the fight against plastic.


Clearing plastic from our coasts is an essential part of this charity’s work. SAS has the biggest beach clean volunteer community in the UK. They have successfully collected 1170 kilos of rubbish to date.


SAS work to support and empower communities across the UK to get stuck in and clean up their local areas. You can find information on joining your local group or organising your own beach clean by visiting the SAS website.


The ambition of SAS is inspiring. They demonstrate that individual effort does make a difference and, if you can empower an entire community, the changes can be powerful. I will continue to proudly collect rubbish on my local beach walks. Will you join me?


By Molly Doubleday ©


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