Local hero: The 2 Minute Foundation

The 2 Minute Foundation is working hard to clean up the UK’s coastline with its #2MinuteBeachClean campaign. Now an official charity, the foundation has come a long way since its start in 2009. Fiona Shaw catches up with chief operating officer Nicky Green to learn more about the clean-up efforts…

Published:

01.04.21

Writer:

Fiona Shaw

It began back in 2006, when Martin Dorey, founder of the 2 Minute Foundation, moved to a hamlet above the beach in North Devon. He was shocked to see a section of coastline was buried in plastic bottles, fishing crates, rope, and net, vowing there and then that he was going to do something about it.

Getting Torridge Rangers, the National Trust and his local primary school involved, got his local beach clean well underway. And since becoming an official not-for-profit in 2009, the work has continued to grow. In 2013, #2minutebeachclean was born.

The 2 Minute Foundation has an online following of nearly 80,000 people, which has spun off into more campaigns, including #2minutelitterpick and #2minutestreetclean, which tackle up-stream waste, particularly in urban areas and green spaces. Having seen the impact on beaches, people are turning their attention to what happens up-stream – that everything we flush away in cities, or is blown into our canals and rivers, finds its way, eventually, to the sea.

The beauty, says Nicky, is that “it’s so easy to do it in your day. You can set a timer – or not. Two minutes often becomes ten minutes and you start analysing what you’re picking up and what you’re using at home. Taking part in the act of litter picking or beach cleaning switches people’s mindsets.

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“We have a solution now, which is our dream; to create a circular solution and raise awareness even more. Communities can do a beach clean and see what it can be made into…”

2 Minute Beach Clean

In 2014, 2 Minute Beach Clean started building stations for beach clean-ups – A frame boards with bags and pickers for anyone to join in.

“Now, we have nearly 900 cleaning stations across the UK and Ireland. You hashtag your clean up and upload to social media, or log what you found on our app – the possibilities are endless with the data we are collecting which is really quite exciting,” smiles Nicky.

“The other day I did a beach clean locally and you have the whole circular life of plastic in your hand. You’ve got the nurdles – raw plastic pellets that escape from factories – our local beach is strewn with them,” says Nicky. “Then you’ve got items like cotton buds, where that plastic has been made into something and used (but single use) and then flushed down the waterways; an array of micro plastics that have been broken down over decades – crisp wrappers and bottle tops – and you’ve got the fishing industry waste, too. The whole lifecycle in your hands – this all ends up on the strand line.”

The stations have really helped to build the #2minutebeachclean community, and spread the word about the charity’s work and how people can get involved. It’s now working with everyone from individuals to corporates and councils to get us cleaning up.

“At first we had a bit of interest locally, Surfdome stepped forward and invested in some of our stations. They funded eight around Cornwall and Devon, and the rest is history! Sometimes, it’s an individual café buying the stations, or a county council. Ealing Council, in London, wanted 30 across its parks. There are some great fundraising stories too – Jo Moseley is our ambassador, who’s raised money for four stations across the UK. Other people look after the stations on their patch and take them out each morning and care for them… There’s even a couple that got married and got their name put on a station at their favourite beach. It’s ricocheted into this movement that everyone’s getting on board with. It’s a really exciting time to be part of this.”

The stations, along with the hashtag and app, have caused a huge growth in awareness of plastic waste and littering.

Spreading awareness…

“At first we had a bit of interest locally, Surfdome stepped forward and invested in some of our stations. They funded eight around Cornwall and Devon, and the rest is history! Sometimes, it’s an individual café buying the stations, or a county council. Ealing Council, in London, wanted 30 across its parks. There are some great fundraising stories too – Jo Moseley is our ambassador, who’s raised money for four stations across the UK. Other people look after the stations on their patch and take them out each morning and care for them… There’s even a couple that got married and got their name put on a station at their favourite beach. It’s ricocheted into this movement that everyone’s getting on board with. It’s a really exciting time to be part of this.”

The stations, along with the hashtag and app, have caused a huge growth in awareness of plastic waste and littering.

“When the stations first went out, we saw the benefits,” says Nicky. “We saw a 61% drop in litter with the presence of our station on Crooklets beach. This is what’s appealed to local councils, who have bought batches of stations and are noticing drops in littering. The stations are also a good way to display information and act as a reminder to make you think twice about littering, and change mindsets towards plastic waste.

“We’ve worked tirelessly on social media to nurture our followers and have been successful too in connecting up groups on the ground. Lots of people would follow and comment and ‘@‘ us – and then realise that they were nearby others in the effort. They’d start to meet up and connect their own group – we were the catalyst for them to move forward with cleanups. We call them our 2 Minute family, including artists who create artwork from beach waste to raise awareness. Our 2 Minute campaigns are a way of galvanising people to get together and pick up litter…”

Since 2019, the 2 Minute Beach Clean has made some huge steps forward.

“Taking part in the act of litter picking or beach cleaning switches people’s mindsets.”

“In October 2019 we became a charity,” says Nicky. “At that point, there were five part-time employees and now there are 11 of us. We have a volunteer who works on our app, and we’re creating our new website, which is awesome.

“The app will allow us to hone in on certain areas – troublesome areas, I suppose – and work out what some of the issues might be. So, for example, if we see a lot of plastic spoons on a beach, with ‘X’ amount picked up on one specific beach, it might be that we’re able to work out what that local coffee shop is using. Then, we can work with them to help them make some sustainable changes, like switching to wooden spoons.

“So now we’re working together with small businesses – and even the huge corporates. We see a large amount of plastic bottles and bottle tops in the water, and waste being washed up from the fishing industry. This is a starting point for good conversations with businesses, and the app data is a powerful tool for us that lets us shout louder and lobby for change. There is tonnes and tonnes of rubbish that’s been picked up so far. On average, roughly 1-2kg of rubbish is what you’d pick up in two minutes, so imagine that multiplied by our 80,000 followers…”

The litter that people pick up in their #2minutebeachclean efforts has been used for a wide variety of things. “We ask people to take it home and recycle what they can, or if there are bins by a station, that’s great,” says Nicky. “Some people keep items for art, but we’re about to be more circular…”

What really got to Martin, in spite of all the effort, was that they weren’t doing anything with the litter they were picking up. And now, having inspired people across the country to take two minutes to clean up their local beaches, the plastic people pick up has its own purpose. They are using their technology to press recycled plastic into boards, which can in turn by made into stations.

“We’re just about to make our first 100 stations out of marine waste collected from the beaches,” says Nicky. “We’ve had a three-tonne challenge between the staff during lockdown to go towards making the A-frames, and we’re getting on alright. We weigh our totals at the end of each month.

We have a solution now, which is our dream; to create a circular solution and raise awareness even more. Communities can do a beach clean and see what it can be made into.”

It doesn’t stop there, though. Education is a major part of the process, getting people to think about the implications of their actions. Founder Martin is the author of two children’s books Kids Fight Climate Change and the best-selling Kids Fight Plastic, and the team has launched its Beach School, using the resources to bring lessons straight from the beach. And, alongside BeachClean, StreetClean and LitterPick, there’s a new side campaign.

“The 2 Minute Solution campaign looks at what we can change, such as switching products. The toothbrush is a great example that makes such a difference – switching to a bamboo toothbrush that won’t end up in the sea. Or, not buying plastic water bottles, and taking a reusable coffee cup to work.”

2 Minutes of Positivity is another campaign, created when lockdown started in 2020. Supporting people’s mental health in a tumultuous time, the campaign focused on getting people to do something positive for two minutes, such as picking up litter, phoning a friend, or sitting out in the sunshine. The campaign is concentrating on changing mindsets, and spreading awareness of the mental health benefits of looking after the planet, and yourself.

The 2 Minute Foundation has already made massive waves in sustainability. And it’s only getting bigger…

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