The Two Minute Beach Clean: Interview with founder Martin Dorey

The two minute beach clean project starts with the  simple and effective idea that everyone has two minutes and two minutes can really make a difference when it comes to the environement.  The project is founded on the  believe that every piece of litter removed from the beach matters and that each and every piece of marine plastic removed from the beach is a piece that will no longer go on to kill.

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We interviewed founder Martin Dorey about his smart idea with a big impact, and a look at what is ahead for the movement.

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. We love smart ideas for big issues and came across the two minute beachclean when visiting the beach in Brighton recently and immediately stared bagging and tagging.
What do you believe is the key to the success of your project? Why does it work?
It works because of two minutes. That is the key that unlocks it. It is the thing that works because people think two minutes is nothing, basically. So we invite people to do two minutes, it tells you when to can stop, and it tells you when you can stop feeling guilty about not doing more, but it also invites you, it challenges you. But is also says that it is nothing.
And on top of that it is massively positive. Everything we do is about being positive. So rather than “we have to clean the beach because the oceans are dying”, we say, “If you clean up the beach you will make a difference”. So it is about positivity, it understands that people are lazy a little bit. There is all that kind of factors. It just works.

You will be happy to know that took as a while to find enough rubbish to fill up the bag in Brighton. What has the impact of the project been on the participating beaches?
It is difficult to say but our first board was on a beach in Cornwall for a year and they were doing monthly beach cleans, and those beach cleans were picking up 61% less litter than the year before, when the board wasn’t there. So in theory it is halving the amount of litter that people are finding, roughly. Which is great and that is actually just from people doing two minutes, so we are pretty confident that it does work. I know from personal evidence that if I go and do two minutes every day I can soon clean the beach. It does work.

It was surprising to us, that once you start actively looking for litter during the two minutes beach clean, you become more aware of the litter around you even when the two minutes are over. Do you believe that your idea can bring a change in behaviour beyond the two minutes?
Yeah absolutely, I say that once you look you start seeing it so you know the point is that you hope to get people started. The whole project is about getting people started and actually once you get people started, they start looking and they start seeing and then ultimately they hopefully will make changes in their own lifestyle. So it is a kind of a gateway to green thinking, by opening people’s eyes and by making it easy for them to start.

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We found a pack of Paracetamol tablets on the beach in Brighton. What is the most dangerous litter to children and adults and what is the most dangerous rubbish to animals you can find on a beach?
All of it is dangerous to the wildlife, isn’t it so everything is a danger, but we find syringes occasionally, needles, and obviously there is a danger of contamination with those which is not very nice. That is probably the most dangerous thing. Barbeques can be dangerous when they are hot still and buried in the sand, because the sand keeps the heat. Glass obviously is really bad and sometimes you find really unpleasant chemicals in bottles. My advice would be not to open the bottles. Throw them away as they are.

What in terms ideas, law, mentality or behaviour do you believe could have the biggest impact on the environment and litter?
Tough legislation would be an answer. One of those things would be a universal recycling standard in this country and legislation to match, because it needs to be illegal to make new plastics that can’t be recycled. But no one is going to do that because politicians are weak so the biggest change will be Blue Planet II. That has pushed everybody and it is really good.

Being from continental Europe we have seen the use of supermarket plastic bags banned over the past years. Have you considered a recyclable alternative for the beach clean boards? Potentially even a sponsored option
Yes we think about it all the time. We thought about it from the very beginning. At the time when we first devised the boards we knew that everybody had plastic bags under their sink and the cupboard because they had been given to them left right and centre. So we have used that supply now. We don’t want people to use new bags at all but we are working on trying to work out how we get recycled bags into those stations but it is expensive because we have got 400 stations and they need 10 bags each. We haven’t had a sponsor yet who is stepping up to do that. We will find someone at some point.
The last thing we want to do, is to encourage people to use new plastic bags. We also have changed the wording on the sign, soo that is says place your old bags here, empty your bags in the bin and put your bags back. We are trying to encourage people to reuse them. If a plastic bag gets another use before it goes to landfill that is great. Previously it was going straight to landfill anyway.

Also living in a city like London we immediately thought of the potential to extended the project beyond the beaches as have you with the two minute litter boards? How is that side of the project being rolled out?
It is being rolled out when we get the opportunity. We have no funding apart from a little bit of funding. So when we got money like we have a little bit of money now, we are working on the brand, working on the boards and talking to sponsors about getting them to pay for it.
It will be the street clean and the litter pick.
For example we want to put the boards outside coffee shops and in open spaces, but it all takes time and money and that is something that we don’t have a huge amount of. So these sort of projects do take time unfortunately

Have you considered different forms of two minute cleans for beyond the beach the what is else is in store for the future for the project?
We started the beach clean and then came the litter pick that has also been going for a while. It has been good. It has been trailed in Dartmouth so that works. Two minute street clean is being used in Ireland and other examples are trail clean and river clean that people are using it off their own backs, but we don’t have plans for it because we want to keep it contained. But basically what we are about is the two minute idea. My book is about the two minute solutions. Two minute solutions are things that are easy to do, to stop us having to do too many beach cleans. The two minute solution is easy, it takes no time out of your day and that is where the thinking is.
The principle is that we understand human nature. Humans are lazy and want an easy way out. We have to treat them gently; we cannot push them and tell them that the world is dying because they don’t respond to that. You have to talk to them nicely and thank them for what they do and make them feel good. It makes them feel part of the community, like the hashtag on social media. It is amazing. I am so surpired by how much has happened in the last five years with what we are doing. We started off with just one hashtag, one picture on Instagram and to where it is now is incredible. And what is being shown on social media is just the tip of the iceberg. I got an award from the Prime Minister this morning for the project. We are getting heard. We haven’t chased funding but are in a really good position now thatwwe are a good bet for funding. That is the plan really so that we can start to build something really good.

Images courtesy of https://beachclean.net/ and https://www.instagram.com/2minutebeachclean/

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