2018’s last beach clean

Volunteers and litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Last week we had our final beach clean of 2018.  A fantastic 23 people came along to Whitehaven’s North shore and helped us on a bright, and somewhat breezy, day.  This beach clean was the first where we’ve used the hessian coffee sacks which Carvetii Coffee have kindly donated to us.  We’re using the sacks instead of bin bags so that we’re sending less plastic to landfill.  They hessian sacks not only hold more waste, but we hope they’ll also beak down quicker than plastic.

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

 

We know from previous beach cleans that there’s lots of rope in the rock armour at Whitehaven so we decided to come armed with and assortment of implements to try and cut this out.  It takes a lot of time to say through nylon rope so we were really lucky to have a few dedicated volunteers who tackled the worst areas.

Because we had lots of people we also decided to survey the litter we collected.  We use the Marine Conservation Society’s beachwatch surveying method so that we can contribute all the data to a national record and help to build up a picture of the national marine litter issue.

Surveying litter and beach cleaning at Whitehaven North Shore

Surveying litter and beach cleaning at Whitehaven North Shore

In total we collected 346 pieces of litter in an hour and a half.  Not bad when you consider some of that had to be cut from amongst the rock armour, dragged a few hundred metres along the beach or picked up at arms reach with a litter picker.  The table below gives you an idea of the variety of material we found.

Types of material collected during a beach clean at Whitehaven North Shore

Types of material collected during a beach clean at Whitehaven North Shore

 

Plastic makes up a staggering 63.5% of all the litter found on the day, and a lot of that was plastic bottles, bottle cpas, food wrapping and other items which could have been recycled.  Coming in second place was paper and cardboard – a lot of this was fast food rubbish and should have been disposed of properly rather than ending up on the beach.  The best finds of the day included fishing bouys, fishing crates, two tyres and two wellies – found quite far apart but possibly a pair!  the fishing crate has been repurposed and our Project Officer is now using it to store and transport all of our beach cleaning gear around (reduce, reuse, recycle in action!)

We’ll be looking back over all our 2018 beach cleans soon, and giving you some idea of how much litter we’ve collected this year.  But in the meantime we’ve finalised the dates of all of our beach cleans for 2019…so if you’re at a loose end on the last Thursday of the month then come along!  All the details can be found on our events page.

 

A small part of the big beach cleaning picture

For the last two years we’ve organised beach cleans as part of the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean, the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK.

While we’ve only taken art for the last two years, the GBBC and Beachwatch programmes has been running for over 25 years.  In this time volunteers have collected information which has helped make some of the most significant impacts on beach litter ever – the plastic bag charge, microplastics banned in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, and massive support for a tax on ‘on the go’ plastic single use items.

The GBBC 2018 Report, shows that across the UK on average, a staggering 600 items of litter on every 100 metres of beach that were cleaned and surveyed.  While that’s still a huge amount it’s actually 16% down on last year.

Beach cleaning finds at Whitehaven North Shore

Finding rope nearly as tall as our beach cleaners at Whitehaven’s North Shore

On a chilly and wet September day we did our Great British Beach Clean at North Shore in Whitehaven and found 269 pieces of litter in our 100 metre survey area.  Most of the litter we found was plastic (over 47%), and 64% of the litter we found came from the public – things like bottles, fast food wrappers and cigarette butts.  This is much more than the national figure of 28%.

So, what can you do to help us keep beaches clean?  You can join us on Wednesday 12th December when we’ll be back beach cleaning at North Shore (we bring everything you need, just come along and join in).  We’ve also written an article with a few ideas before to get you started reducing how much plastic you use.  A Deposit Return System (DRS) is under development in Scotland and has been promised for England.  The MCS says the Government now has a golden opportunity to bring in the best system possible – one that will include all bottles and cans and all sizes.  A consultation on a DRS in England is expected to be launched any day now.  Keep your eye on the MCS website and social media feeds to see how you comment on the proposals.