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Optical Express tackle microplastics pollution with a beach clean-up

Optical Express are proud to be members of the Marine Conservation Society and as part of our commitment to supporting the UK’s leading marine charity, a small team of volunteers recently took part in a beach clean-up at Clevedon Pier near Bristol.

Colleagues from South West England decided to make a difference to the beach at the 150 year-old Clevedon Pier in North Somerset by organising a voluntary clean up session. A team of eight took part and this included our Corporate SR Manager Heather Suttie and Katie Creighton from our Southampton clinic, Apoorva Singh and Andy Waters from our Plymouth clinic. Liam Harris and Rachel Butler from Cardiff joined and the event was organised by Carla Thomas, Regional Manager and Sarah Sheehan, Regional Support Manager, in partnership with Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust.

The beach clean-up team collected a wide range of items, including pencils, paperclips, string, polystyrene, rubber, syringes, a plastic dummy, ceramics, a wellie boot and lots of tiny plastic particles. As part of the clean-up process, everything found was recorded and the team picked up 291 items. The list of recorded items will then be sent to the MCS for analysis and research purposes. By cleaning up the debris on the beach, the team really has helped to enhance the local area, as well as helping the environment.

Anne Thwaites, Corporate Partnerships Manager at the Marine Conservation Society, said, “Some of our most iconic marine wildlife is under threat from litter in our seas, with hundreds of species accidentally eating or becoming entangled in drifting items of waste. Marine litter is also dangerous for people and damaging to tourism and our fishing industries. We all have a part to play in turning the tide on litter. It is fantastic to hear that MCS business member, Optical Express, has organised its own beach clean as part of our fight against marine litter in the UK."

The Victorian pier is where One Direction filmed their video for their single ‘You and I’ in 2014. The pier was built during the 1860s to attract tourists and provide a ferry port for rail passengers to South Wales. The pier is 312m (1,024ft) long and consists of eight spans supported by steel rails covered by wooden decking, with a pavilion on the pier head. Abbie Edbrooke, Heritage and Outreach Officer, Clevedon Pier said “We rely on support from volunteers and these beach clean projects only work because of companies like Optical Express. I work with the MCS all year round, and you can take part in a one day voluntary session. You might think that this beautiful beach looks clean, but in reality there's an awful lot of plastic pollution.”

The feedback from the team who took part was overwhelmingly positive.  Sarah Sheehan said “This has been an absolutely fabulous experience! We're going to be doing this again, as lots of our colleagues want to take part too. Today proves that we can all make a massive difference to the environment and our local communities. If you can donate a small amount of time, then absolutely do it. It's great for colleagues, friends and family. We're really excited about doing more volunteering like this.”

Carla Thomas said “As a business, we're passionate about educating our patients about the damage caused by contact lens pollution to the environment. From a local point of view, it was really important for us to play our part in serving our community.” Apoorva Singh  “I'm so passionate about the environment and I've loved taking part today. It's great to work for an organisation that supports tackling plastic pollution. I enjoyed doing my part to protect and save the environment, as waste can end up in the sea and have a devastating effect on sea life.”

Heather Suttie said “This was my first beach clean and I loved it. Fresh air, exercise and team building! We picked up lots of small particles of plastic as well as larger items - I was surprised at how much we collected, as this beautiful beach is cleaned regularly. Microplastics are less than 5mm long so you really have to look for the smaller plastic particles. I look forward to organising more beach clean ups as Optical Express is fully committed to playing our part for the environment and our local communities. It was a really great day, and I’d highly recommend getting involved with the MCS.”