Currently an issue firmly in the public eye, the infiltration of micro-plastics into our ecosystem and the wide-reaching consequences caused by waste from our shores, are a constant reminder of the need to stop littering. This year marks the 25th anniversary that the Marine Conservation Society has highlighted the importance of keeping our sea-side litter free, through the annual Great British Beach Clean.
In September, as part of the weekend of litter picking events and in tandem with Chichester District Council’s new Against Litter campaign, Community Wildlife Officer Sarah Hughes organised a clean of the popular East beach, in Selsey. Over forty volunteers attended the session on Saturday 15th, with a trio even travelling to us from Surrey, after spotting our event on the beach clean list! Small groups were each allocated a 10 metre stretch of the beach to clean, with a total of 200 metres of sea-side covered on the day. Participants were also given a survey to complete throughout the task, to record the types of rubbish being collected.
Surveying is a key aspect of the Great British Beach Clean, because this data is used to influence changes in legislation for the most frequently found types of litter. To date, the micro-bead ban and taxes on single-use bags have been successfully implemented thanks to data contributed by beach cleans. Our volunteers were diligent, picking up fiddley pieces of rubbish, consisting of broken plastic pieces, a few centimetres or less in size, along with a high number of cigarette stubs, which contain hidden plastic themselves. More unusual items found included a metal pole and clipboard clamp, both brought back to shore by the Mulberry Divers taking part in the clean, and fishing hooks hidden amongst the shingle.
East Beach is maintained fairly consistently, and some volunteers noted on arrival that the beach seemed well kept. In fact two litter picks had already taken place within the weeks prior and throughout the day of our clean many visitors at the beach expressed that they make litter collecting a regular part of their walks along the coastline. Despite expectations of a low yield, 32.25 kilograms of litter were found by the end of the two-hour session.
A summary of our findings is shown below:
Cigarette stubs: 194
Plastic pieces <2.5cm: 112
Plastic pieces >2.5cm <50cm : 88
Fishing paraphernalia: 77 items
Plastic and metal caps/ lids: 74
Plastic rope pieces: 68
Plastic and foil food wrappers/ packets: 65
Plastic cutlery / straws: 46
Pieces of glass: 43
Bagged dog faeces: 36
Metal scraps, barbed wire and mesh pieces: 31
Wooden lolly sticks/ chip forks: 30
Cable ties: 13
Plastic shopping bags: 10
Plastic pieces >50cm: 7
Weather and tidal factors will affect the amount of litter dropped or washed up onto a beach every day and our results have shown that even with regular beach cleans, litter is an ever-present fixture of the British coastline for the foreseeable future. To improve the state of our beaches and the ocean, we must use our discovered data to push for the prevention of litter being created in the first instance.
Thanks go to the Selsey & District Lions Club, who provided our volunteers with a BBQ to celebrate their fantastic efforts whilst the results of our Great British Beach Clean were contemplated.
Details on how to collect data on litter and organize your own beach clean can be found on the Marine Conservation Society’s Website.
Post by Nikki