On the morning of Sunday 19th July I joined a group of brave volunteers of all ages gathered on the shingle beside the West Bay Watch House Cafe to carry out a beach clean. The event was the latest in a series going back several years, but was the first this year due to Covid-19 lockdown. It was led by local resident Joe Hackett, supported by Matilda Manley of Litter Free Coast and Sea, Dorset, and West Bay resident Simon Jordan.
As they arrived the 30+ brave volunteer beach cleaners were briefed, then donned high vis jackets and gloves, and were issued with litter pickers and bags, and set off for the beach. Although the focus this time was East Beach a small group set off to complete a quick sweep of West Beach as well. It was not long before the beach looked like it had been invaded by an army of cleaning ants.
Rubbish was collected observing social distancing rules and it was not long before the volunteers returned. The contents of one of the dozen bags of rubbish collected can be seen in the picture below. The list of things found this time included drinks cans, beer bottles, lolly sticks, single-use plastic bottles, wet wipes, paper, used nappies, sweet wrappings, tent pegs, nails, kebab skewers, fishing line, plastic string and rope, and one still smouldering disposable barbecue. From the West Beach, in addition to most of the items already listed was one hypodermic needle.
Whilst out with my picker I took the opportunity to ask the RNLI Lifeguards on duty, about the beach litter they come across as part of their day to day job and the impact if any it has. The said that they had noticed an increase in the volume of litter this year and were particularly concerned by the number of tent pegs and kebab skewers being left on the beach. Only last week one member of their team trod on a kebab skewer and needed antibiotics to deal with the resulting infection. Thanks to the thoughtless actions of some, others are no longer safe to enjoy the simple pleasure of walking in bare feet along the sand.
The beach clean over, the volunteers were rewarded for their efforts with a free drink from the Watch House Cafe which had opened its doors especially early just for us. Many thanks for your generous support.
We are all aware of the impact on the environment of plastic waste. In this country alone, researchers have found that there are on average around 5000 pieces of plastic waste on every mile of our beautiful coastline. The seas and oceans of the world are now all highly polluted and the impact on marine life of all kinds is increasingly fatal. For example, even the wild cod and haddock in our fish and chips will have ingested plastic and microplastic particles, some of which will be retained in the delicious crispy battered flesh we love to eat. Yum!
Why are the people, both local and visitors, who visit our beautiful beaches unable to take away, and dispose of responsibly, the things that they have brought to the beach as part of their enjoyment? Thanks to the efforts of the beach clean volunteers, some of the plastic and other litter left on our beaches has been removed. It is a great shame that this has had to become such a regular necessity.