This weekend, we took part in our first beach clean.
Organised by Surfers Against Sewage in Hove, my boyfriend and I turned up on Saturday morning for the Autumn Beach Clean armed with gardening gloves and old bags for life ready to do our bit.
It was a nice morning to be at the beach – clear blue skies but a cold crisp breeze – and we were pleased to see so many people already out including families with small kids in tow.
In terms of finding rubbish, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We were briefed to look out for big objects – cans and bottles, as well as smaller bits of plastic – but when we first got started, I saw nothing! This was pleasing, but it was more than likely that this area was clean because it had already been covered by volunteers…
As we moved further down the beach, away from the other volunteers, we began to find more litter.
But it wasn’t the large bottles and cans that I was expecting.
Instead, we must have picked up close to a hundred or so cigarette butts (which contain plastic), a couple of crisp and sweet wrappers, loads of receipts and travel tickets (coated in a thin layer of plastic) and a shocking number of bottle corks, with the odd ring-pull, plastic bottle lid and plastic straw.
These were all small items so when we finally stopped, an hour and a half later, our bags weren’t bulging or heavy, but we felt like, in some areas, we’d been constantly bending down to pick up litter.
Walking back to hand in our bags for SAS to weigh-up, I think what struck us most was how many tiny bits of rubbish are making their way onto our beaches, and nestling down in between the pebbles and stones on the shore. There were many times that I nudged stones to uncover buried rubbish below.
While most of our finds were further up the beach, more towards the promenade, it’s inevitable that the plastic will travel down towards the shore, or be picked up by sea-birds.
The cigarette butts in particular though, really hit me. Even as we walked back on the promenade, we spotted loads scattered around a park bench – which was also directly next to a bin.
We picked up as many as we could but we couldn’t help feeling that we could have been there all day trying to rid the beach of these things.
It’s a depressing thought to have.
But regardless of how small a dent we made on Saturday, along with the other volunteers who turned up, we still made a dent.
If everyone took part in one of these clean-ups, maybe we’d be able to start turning the tide on the waves of plastic and rubbish we’re filling our natural world with.
For more information on beach cleans, or to find a clear-up near you, check out the Surfers Against Sewage website. Or have a look at the Marine Conservation Society website, or your local Sea Shepherd Facebook page.