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Meet the grandmother who spends entire year cleaning local beaches

This 70-year old grandmother has made it her mission to clean up the local beaches in her hometown in Cornwall, England.

Pat Smith is one dedicated grandma who has made headlines around the world for her incredible initiative – to clean up the local beaches in her community.

It all began in New Year’s Eve when Pat saw an environmental documentary tackling plastic pollution. Prompted by what she learned, she got up the next morning and decided to do something about it – all by herself.

“I started on January 1, 2018. I did one beach a week for the whole year, apart from a couple of occasions where I did two,” Pat told PEOPLE.

Pat started in her hometown of St. Austell, where she began picking up garbage in its local beaches whenever she could.

Even when she traveled for vacation, Pat didn’t stop and continued her clean-up drive along Cornwall’s 400-mile-long coast.

Although she wasn’t able to clean 52 beaches as she had originally intended, Pat was able to collect 13,000 pieces of litter over the course of 104 total hours of her voluntary community service.

“It was just a case of trying to do them wherever and whenever I could. It’s a case of once your eyes are opened to it, you can’t ever switch off,” she said.

Pat said that most of the trash she found washed up on the shore were made of plastic, though she also found several fishing nets as well.

“The vast majority is broken up pieces of everyday used items, like bottle tops, toothpaste caps and broken up water bottles,” she said. “Once some plastic gets into the sea the waves sort of bashes it up, so what we get on the beach is small bits of the remains.”

Pat’s environmental mission also has a lot to do with her young grandchildren – Wilfred, 11, Megan, 9, Sam, 7, and Jasmine, 4 – who sometimes go with her on her beach-cleaning efforts.

“My grandchildren are absolutely fantastic. They’re always calling me over and saying “Gran, some plastic! Gran, some plastic!’ I pick up an awful lot of plastic, I can tell you!” Pat said.

“It’s just what I do and hopefully my grandchildren will be doing the same thing. I won’t stop, as our beaches need me!” she added.

Seeing how much single-use plastic ends up in the ocean, Pat has founded a new initiative that aims to address this problem.

Final Straw Cornwall aspires to encourage local businesses and citizens to reduce their plastic straw usage in the area, in the hopes of inspiring others to be more mindful of all the plastic that they use once and just discard.

Pat is also encouraging other people to do their part whenever they can.

“Anyone can do this when they are out and about—dog walking, fitness walking, jogging, or enjoying the fresh air. It is surprising how few people do though; most don’t even seem to notice the rubbish anymore,” she said.

If you want to learn more about Pat and her team’s cleaning efforts and how they spread awareness about the detrimental effects of mindless plastic use, click HERE.

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