Wednesday, 23 September 2015

My first beach clean!

Phew! It’s been a busy few days for the Sea Champions team getting involved with the Great British Beach Clean all over the UK. We’re going to be sharing all about how we got on over on the Marine Conservation Society facebook page but while we unpack the litter pickers and tally up the survey sheets we thought you might enjoy this story from Sea Champion Kieran who tells us what it was like to run his first beach clean.

"This weekend was the Great British Beach Clean and all across the country, beach cleans have been taking place to raise awareness, collect data and do something about the huge problem that is marine litter. As part of this nationwide effort I was organising a beach clean at Bovisand in southern Devon. In the build up to the event I was a bit nervous. I had only recently became a Sea Champion, this was my first time organising a beach clean and I was a bit worried that something might go wrong, or that people wouldn't turn up!

Luckily on the Saturday the weather was incredible with clear skies and hot sun. Jules (the Sea Champions Volunteer Coordinator for the South West), my friend Paul, a member of the public and I got cracking with setting everything up: lugging all of the equipment down the hill and putting up tables and banners.

Before long a small crowd gathered and Jules began with the initial talk, telling people what the purpose of the clean was- that it was part of a nationwide and global effort to clean up beaches and to collect really useful data that can be used to inform policy on marine litter. Information on how to use the recording form was also covered, before I added some information on safety (helped by a man from the council who happened to be passing at that exact moment).

After gearing everyone up and signing the appropriate forms, we got to work. The beach at Bovisand is cleaned relatively regularly, but even so there was quite a lot of litter, this seemed to be in the form of lots of little pieces rather than huge bulky bits. Gradually we worked our way across the beach in small groups; scouring the sand and seaweed for litter. We could have been there all day picking bits up!

Jules and I chatted to the volunteers and helped them identify bits of litter. It is often difficult to identify bits of rubbish and to understand the journey that it has taken to end up on the beach before you pick it up. The group who turned up to the clean were a great mix of people of different ages and backgrounds. This really helped when identifying different pieces of litter as people had different areas of expertise and together collectively we could identify more. One of the volunteers was a keen angler and from speaking to him I learned a lot about angling and how to differentiate between different types of line.

The beach clean seemed to go really quickly and everyone I spoke to seemed to be having a good time. People were surprised by the amount of plastic we kept finding and also seemed shocked when they found out that something they had never thought of as being plastic actually was, this was the case with polyester.

Interesting finds included; coconuts (we joked that they had come all the way from a tropical island somewhere), small toys, Lego and balloons; along with the usual’s such as packaging, bottle tops, fishing line and rope. The most shocking thing we found were two hypodermic needles- which could have been really dangerous, if someone stepped on them so we disposed of these safely.
At the end we gathered everyone together, weighed the rubbish and took some photos next to our filled bags – there were lots of smiles.

Seeing the reactions from the people who took part and the litter that we removed from the beach, was the ultimate feedback. It was nice to do our bit to combat marine litter. It was definitely worth the effort and planning I put in. 

I would definitely organise a beach clean again!"

Thanks Kieran, splendid effort! 

The Great British Beach Clean may be over for this year but there are always cleans going on so be sure to have a look at our Beachwatch pages to find one near you, or why not organise your own?

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