Since I started swimming in open water, the environment has become more and more important to me. Having to pick my way across a beach covered in litter or sharing the sea with discarded plastic bags really takes away from the pleasure of swimming outdoors.
Unfortunately the problem of plastic litter on beaches has increased 140% since 1994. Plastic never biodegrades, it breaks down into smaller pieces but does not actually disappear. It’s estimated that their will be more plastic in our seas than fish by 2050- a very worrying statistic. The waste comes from many sources- the public, fishing activities, sewage pipes and shipping, but it’s all preventable. Litter kills marine life as they often mistake it for food and it blocks their stomachs. It breaks my heart to see images of seals with plastic packaging caught around their necks.
Wanting to take a more proactive role in keeping the environment litter free, I heard about the Great British Beach Clean. Organised by the Marine Conservation Society, the Beach Clean campaign takes places on over 300 beaches around the country over the 15th-18th September. Volunteers are invited to spend a few hours cleaning and recording the litter found on their local beach. Many of the plastics removed from these events are sorted and recycled.
I went along to the Great British Beach Clean at Thorpe Bay, which is where I took part in the Southend Triathlon earlier this year. It was great to see such a huge turnout of volunteers- far more than I’d expected. We were issued with gloves, bin bags and clip-boards for recording the types of litter we found.
We spread out along the beach and began sifting through the sand and pebbles to pick up stray pieces of trash. Before long I’d picked up handfuls of bottlecaps, straws, wet wipes and tin foil. Much of it was tangled in the seaweed or around the beach huts. A babies dummy and a plastic spade were two of my more interesting finds!
We logged everything we found so that the Marine Conservation Society can build up a full picture of what exactly is on our beaches and how we can prevent it getting there. Surprisingly, the most common item on Thorpe Bay beach was cotton buds- they were everywhere!
It’s not a particularly glamorous way to spend an afternoon, but it felt good to do my bit for the environment and leave Thorpe Bay beach in a cleaner state than when I arrived. It’s important that we all take responsibility for keeping our beaches and seas clean- you don’t need to wait until next year’s campaign. At home, we are also endeavouring to cut down on our use of plastic bottles, by buying a Brita water filter and SodaStream machine.
Did you get involved in the Great British Beach Clean? Are you trying to cut down on plastic waste?