Interview with Ann Jenkins from Playa Patrol, La Herradura

Playa Patrol Beacc Clean up Volunteers

Sarah from Eco Passion recently caught up with Ann Jenkins from beach-cleaning ecological group Playa Patrol in La Herradura, Costa Tropical. Here is what they spoke about:

Tell me a bit about what exactly Playa Patrol is and when you set it up?
PLAYA PATROL is an association focused on beach clean ups along the Costa Tropical.  Our mission is to think globally and act locally to help keep our sea plastic free.  In October 2018, my husband, Christopher and I, hosted a beach clean up and we were hoping that 50-80 people would participate.  We were shocked and thrilled when 350 volunteers joined us and collected 24,000 cigarette butts and other plastic litter and garbage in under two hours.  We had so much positive feedback that we decided to create an association that works with local businesses and schools to host beach clean ups.  

What made you want to start the group?
I wanted to start PLAYA PATROL to encourage people at a grass roots level to feel empowered to make a difference.  Many people ask: "What can I do? I am only one person, will it really make a difference?"  My answer is a resounding YES.  Together we have the power to not only participate in a beach clean up but to build awareness around changing our relationship with single-use plastic. 

Let me tell you a story: A mother told me that her young daughters (3 and 5 years) were not really interested in participating in our first beach clean up, but being a good mom, she told them “you play on the beach, then you help clean the beach.”  During the beach clean up they collected their sand bucket full of plastic straws, cigarette butts, plastic bottle caps and other assorted plastic litter and they had a lot of fun at the end zone where the community came together to socialize.  But the best part of the story is what happened later.  I ran into that same mother 4 months later and since then her daughters talk about the dangers of plastic litter that they see on the street or the beach and say: “Mummy, that cannot go to the sea, because a bird might eat it. I want to pick it up and put in in the recycling bin.”  Not only is she a proud mom because of her daughters' ongoing awareness around the dangers of single-use plastic entering the sea, but she learned during the first beach clean up that cigarette butt filters are comprised of 98% plastic.  As a smoker, she has stopped flicking her butts on the street or the sand … and if she forgets, her daughters remind her (and quite loudly too!)
A recent non-smoker joined us for her second beach clean up and she told us how horrible she feels because of all the cigarette butts she threw away on the beach when she was a smoker. She told us that she had no idea that cigarette filters are made of plastic and that it takes over 100 years to break down.
It's stories and examples like these that make us proud to do what we're doing.

What events do you have coming up?
We have two large scale community beach clean ups scheduled for the rest of 2019.  The June 30 event is the POST SAN JUAN BEACH CLEAN UP.  That date is important because the weekend before is the only date that people are allowed to tent overnight and have large bonfires in Andalucia.  We’ve all seen media reports showing the amounts of trash that is left after the revellers leave.  Even though the local Medio Ambiente department does an incredible job of hauling away all that trash, the microplastics remain: cigarette butts, plastic straws, plastic bottle caps, and more.  Volunteers will collect the micro-plastics so that the beach is in great condition before the height of season.   Collaborating with local, national and international organizations is important which is why we chose September 22 for our second major event: it coincides with International Coastal Clean Up Day around the globe. In fact, talking about collaboration, we are helping out our friends at the Asociación Amigos de la Playa Nudista Cantarriján on April 13.  And, from time-to-time we schedule ad-hoc local beach clean ups.  Lastly, we have a visiting school from Madrid joining us mid-June and are always interested in hearing from schools that are looking to add a beach clean up to their list of extra-curricular learning activities.
What are the long term plans for the group?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day there was no need for beach clean ups.  Imagine that day!  Even though there are EU target dates for the reduction of single-use plastic we have a long way to go before there will be no more plastic that enters the sea.  In terms of our long-term goals, I would love to see an annual calendar of beach clean up events that take place all the way along Costa Tropical.  Our goal for 2020 is to expand into Salobreña and Motril and then after that to work with the local communities from Carchuna to Albuñol to provide them the tools and inspiration to host beach clean ups throughout the year.  All it takes is a passion to help keep our sea plastic free and we can empower local communities to take action.  One of the things we hear over and over again is this: “We want to do better, but we just need someone to help us get started.”   If this sounds like your community, let us know, because we can help.  

What can people do to help?
There are three things people can do to help: Firstly, become a Playa Patrol Ocean Guardian and join a beach clean up as a Team Captain or a Volunteer and post your pictures online to encourage more people to do the same.  Secondly, become a Playa Patrol Ocean Ambassador to help expand our beach clean up zones throughout Costa Tropical – this includes working with the local Ayuntamiento and Medio Ambiente and requires English and Spanish language skills as well as a passion to be involved in an ongoing manner to help develop the local beach clean ups.  Each community requires 2-4 Ocean Ambassadors so if you or someone you know is looking for a passion project, we’d love to hear from you.  Lastly, become a financial supporter (individual or corporate sponsor) or in-kind donor.  Running PLAYA PATROL takes energy, passion and money.  It costs money for legal expenses, printing, promotional items, etc., but if we can find community partners to help offset those costs it helps. For example: a printing company can offer to print us t-shirts, banners or promo items; a chiringuito or beach bar can offer to provide complimentary food and beverage at the 'end zone'; a professional photographer can offer to take photos; a print or online media outlet can offer an ad-space at no charge to help get out our message.  The options are endless on how people can get involved.

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