Around 3,500 volunteers took part in a beach cleanup action on the Belgian and the Dutch coastline, which saw 2,000 kg of rubbish collected on Sunday afternoon.
During the eleventh edition of the Eneco Clean Beach Cup, the group of volunteers, including surfers, sailors, family, friends and colleagues went along the coast to collect all items of rubbish, from cigarette butts, plastic bags, bottle caps and "the newest enemy of the sea" - face masks, which can take up to 450 years to break down.
"Coordinated actions like Sunday's are needed in different areas and at different levels. Waste does not stop at our Belgian border," said North Sea Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, who called for a European approach to the problem.
On the Flemish beaches alone, an average of 137 items per 100 metres of coastline was found by the group, a result of summer tourism season in the area.
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The organisers of the action noted that, despite the pandemic, the amount of waste collected "does not seem to be decreasing", highlighting that an annual clean-up is "not a luxury, but it is important to raise awareness and to address the problem."
"After more than a year of the coronavirus crisis, our beaches are anything but clean. The impact of a year of social distancing has apparently had no effect on our common commitment to sustainability," Sven Fransen, the initiator of the action, said.
To take part in the action, former world champion in freestyle kite surfing and O'Neill ambassador Kevin Langeree came to the Netherlands to clean up the beach, and to further promote the cause, he is planning to kitesurf from Belgium to the Netherlands, cleaning up plastic.
"I spend most of my time in the water, so I am all the more aware of the importance of protecting our seas and oceans," Langeree said.