After meeting new friends and old at this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, the Silver Swan team headed an hour south to the beautiful seaside town of Antibes for our Big Beach Clean. We picked this location as a lot of the yacht staff we place live here and knew they’d be keen to do something great and give back to the environment.

As we set up the sun was shining, and the sea softly lapped on the golden sand. The beach was littered with last-of-the-summer sunbathers but, at first glance, the whole area looked pretty clean and the plastic bins dotted around the back of beach bulged with good-citizenship. Would there be much for us to do here, we all wondered.

Beach in the South of France in the sunshine

The Silver Swan team was joined by Liz from Plastic Patrol, our non-profit partner for the year, and The Green Stewardess, who is based in Antibes and helped us to set everything up for the event.

As we put up our flags as a base, a steady stream of people started turning up – yachties, locals, people on holiday – who had heard about the clean-up and wanted to get involved. We handed out gloves, bin bags and litter buckets and all got to work.

People of a beach with rubbish bags, collecting rubbish

Although on the face of it there didn’t appear to be much rubbish, we soon found that the closer you looked, the more you saw. Cigarette ends, straws, paper and so many small pieces of plastic – all hiding amongst the sand and stones.

The team spread out and swept across the beach, all while more and more people arrived and joined in. At first, we got some interesting looks from people on the beach but once they realised what we were doing they gave smiles, a couple of thanks and one group even applauded us – it felt great to see the appreciation for what we were doing and some people even joined in.

The atmosphere was up-beat, and everyone was working hard and enjoying it as we covered the main beach of Plage de la Gravette and worked our way around the rock path to find even more rubbish trapped in the base of the cliffs, including a snorkel, kids flip flops and even some plastic rope concreted into a rock – not friendly for the local marine life.

Two people walking along a small sea wall next to the sea

It was around this time that a group of loud, excited voices came trooping onto the beach. They turned out to belong to a group of local scouts who were just out and about for the day, so we invited them to join in. After happily accepting they split into groups and then huddled around like an American sports team and started a French chant about rubbish collection. And then they were off, into the town instead of the beach, to extend the clean-up beyond the sand and sea.

A hand holding a plastic bottle full of cigarette butts Blue skies with two girls walking on a pedestrian street next to the beach in Antibes, South of France

By now our findings were starting to pile up, so while a few people headed over to the beach next door, others stayed at the base and started to split the rubbish into piles of glass, plastic, metal, paper and more.

The next job was to log everything into the Plastic Patrol app, an awesome bit of technology that is free for anyone to download. You simply take a picture of the rubbish you’ve found, select how many pieces there are, categorise and brand it – such as ‘Bottle’ or ‘Crisp Packet’ and ‘Heineken’ or ‘Walkers’ – and then upload it. This data will contribute towards conducting the world’s largest survey of inland plastic pollution and show how small digital acts can add up to global change.

Plastic Patrol’s goal is to collect and categorise at least one million pieces. Ambitious, but achievable with your help. Here’s the ‘rubbish map’ that shows everything people have captured so far. Everything logged is analysed by their partner scientists to help understand the types, distribution, amount and brands of plastic (and other waste like glass, cans etc) so we can stop the problem from source.

As the final buckets started to come in, we organised all the unlogged rubbish into piles and set to work adding it into the app. It was staggering just how much we’d cleared in just over two hours from a beach that had appeared to be clean.

Small waves lapping on a beach in the South of France

People had come and gone throughout the afternoon but in total we’d had over 50 amazing volunteers give their time and energy to this excellent cause. Once all was logged, we packed up and headed into Antibes with the remaining volunteers for well-earned refreshments at The Hop Store.

We’d like to thank everyone who came down! Aside from collecting an incredible amount of rubbish, we also raised awareness of the great work that Plastic Patrol and The Green Stewardess are doing and the need for people to help whenever they can. It was inspirational to see how much people really do care.

We’ll be announcing our next clean-up soon, so check our website and follow us on social media for more info…

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