Anne Mäusbacher – A few years ago, when I told people about my initiative, Beach Cleaner, I was often asked ‘What was the point of the programme?’ Being based in Nuremberg, Germany, we weren’t exactly near the ocean and people would say, ‘We don’t live by the sea, so what’s the ocean got to do with conservation?’ I wanted to change that perception.
First, people needed to understand why protecting the ocean is so important.
So to name a few reasons:
- The ocean covers almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contains 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represents 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume.
- The ocean absorbs about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.
- The ocean gives us every second breath!
Unfortunately, the ocean is also choking on plastics, having an enormous impact on marine ecosystems, including seabirds, as well as an enormous impact on our health and survival as well.
Many of us have seen this form of pollution first-hand. What we use and discard in our daily lives on land can make its way to the ocean and coastlines. An average of 80 per cent of ocean plastic pollution comes from rivers and smaller water.
In Germany, local rivers meet the Rhine-Main-Danube canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. It is a giant network of waterways, connecting water – the source of life – to people who depend on it, but it is suffering from high-levels of pollution. The same goes for the North and Baltic Sea that border the North of Germany.
The idea for my initiative, ‘Beach Cleaner’ was born, not in Germany, but on an island in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015. I was surprised by how much trash was in the water and on the beaches: cigarette butts, single-use cups, PET bottles, balloons, picnic leftovers and lost fishing gear. I wondered where it all came from, and started to collect and remove it from the beach. No one else on the beach joined to help. Beach clean-ups weren’t the norm then.