Suffolk given a cleaner coastline thanks to a bumper beach clean-up
PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 September 2017
It was a monumental task, matched by a monumental effort - and it removed a monumental mountain of litter from Suffolk's beaches.
The county’s response to this year’s Great British Beach Clean - the annual flagship event in the Marine Conservation Society’s national Beachwatch scheme - was itself monumental. An army of hundreds of volunteers battled against the litter scourge on beaches from Lowestoft to Felixstowe and cleared away a tidal wave of rubbish.
Over the four-day period of this year’s major effort, centred on last weekend, more than 20 teams took part and were co-ordinated by the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with AONB countryside project officer Lynn Allen the main organiser.
“All the teams were brilliant - I cannot praise them highly enough,” said Mrs Allen. “Once again they have done the Suffolk coast proud and once again we have seen what a pressing problem litter is on our beaches.
“I spent all day at the Trimley Marshes foreshore on the River Orwell with the BT, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Suffolk District Scouts volunteers and the thing that was really striking was the amount of plastic that was there. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says that something like 70% of all marine litter is plastic-based and that certainly ties in with what we found at Trimley.”
A wide range of organisations and community groups were involved in the big clean-up, said Mrs Allen. They ranged from parish councils to Rotarians and school and Scout groups to corporate involvement, including Hutchison Ports UK and Adnams.
Mrs Allen’s AONB colleague Alona Ochert - who is on a six-month AONB placement as a volunteer officer - is also assistant Beaver leader with the 5th Woodbridge Sea Scouts and she drafted in highly effective volunteers from the Deben Scouting District. Their willingness exemplified the response from teams up and down the Suffolk coast, said Miss Ochert.
The youngsters and their leaders returned to a 200-metre section of Aldeburgh beach which they had cleaned in July, gathering 600 items of litter this time around, with their efforts contributing to their environmental conservation and community impact staged activity badges.
“We want to ‘adopt’ this stretch of beach and carry on cleaning it regularly, at least three times a year,” said Miss Ochert. “I also went out with the Eco-team from Kyson Primary School in Woodbridge and we cleaned up Kyson Point. They hope to adopt the area for regular clean-ups - the children are aged from five to 11 and it’s great to see how keen they are,” she added.
As much of the mountain of collected litter as possible will be recycled. For example, the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB has teamed up with recycling firm TerraCycle UK, one of whose plastic recycling boxes has been sited at the AONB’s headquarters in Melton. After the big beach clean the box was brimful with an assortment of plastic items waiting to be taken away for recycling.
The annual flagship clean-up effort is the highest-profile event in the MCS Beachwatch calendar, but other seasonal litter clearances also take place - and the work does not only involve getting rid of the rubbish. Items of litter are itemised by volunteers and detail datasets are sent to the MCS so that the make-up of marine rubbish on our beaches can be established.
MCS and the AONB have collated the results for last year’s Beachwatch efforts. They show that 603 volunteers took part in Beachwatch surveys in the county during 2016, carrying out 35 surveys on 26 beaches covering 14km of coast and estuary. A total of 20,515 items of litter were recorded and removed from Suffolk beaches and foreshores and the top ten litter items in Suffolk throughout the year were all of plastic composition.
MCS said that this year’s Great British Beach Clean in England was sponsored by supermarket giant Waitrose, which was also supporting the society’s year-round beach clean programme.
In last year’s flagship clean-up, MCS said, 268,384 pieces of litter were picked up by almost 6,000 volunteers who cleaned up more than 360 beaches.
The society added: “Beach litter has steadily risen over the 23 years since MCS began recording it. However, there was some good news last year because the number of single-use plastic bags found on UK beaches almost halved between 2015 and 2016. This was almost certainly due to the charges at the checkout and shows the impact that behaviour change can have on beach litter.
“In 2016 tiny bits of plastic and polystyrene were the most frequently found litter items on UK beaches. But although fewer plastic bags were found, there was a shocking 50% rise in the amount of balloon-related litter compared to the previous year and volunteer pickers found more drinks container caps and lids too – up 4% on 2015.”
To become involved in Beachwatch in the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB contact Mrs Allen on 01394 445225, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.suffolkcoastandheaths.org
For more information on the work of MCS contact 01989 566017 or visit www.mcsuk.org