Wildlife Gadget Man fights Suffolk’s tsunami of beach litter
- Credit: Archant
Jason Alexander is widely acclaimed as a green hero for his innovative environmental work using new technology - and now he is ‘beach-bashing’ to rid Suffolk shores of damaging discarded detritus
Jason Alexander is certainly walking the walk when it comes to waging war on the plastic plague that threatens to produce a global oceanic Armageddon.
In fact, he’s walked countless miles along litter-strewn tidelines in his personal and passionate mission to rid Suffolk beaches of the ubiquitous material and all the other environmentally damaging rubbish that ends up on them.
Well-known and highly respected in environmental circles for his innovative work as The Wildlife Gadget Man, in which he is helping and inspiring numerous novice naturalists to connect with wildlife through the use of cutting-edge technological devices such as nestbox cameras and trail cameras, Mr Alexander has recently been fighting a battle on the beaches.
For much of the past three years he has been carrying out a colossal coastal clean-up. In hundreds of lone, shingle-crunching patrols on tidelines mainly in the Bawdsey and Felixstowe areas. Mr Alexander has gathered tonnes of rubbish – a mountainous amount that is an indictment of rampant global consumerism and the casual carelessness of today’s throw-away society.
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Driven by dogged determination, he has marched and marched. There’s been plenty of thinking time, time to dwell on how he can best help the now-increasingly mainstream movement to banish such detritus from the environment. He is positively fizzing with ideas – and 2018 looks set to be quite a year for him.
He is planning two major initiatives – an innovative version of business networking in which business men and women network while cleaning beaches, and a charity six-day beach-clean marathon, the plans for which are starting to take shape.
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“I think of the beach as my gym – all this beach walking is certainly cheaper than gym membership,” he said, “It all started because I wanted the exercise and then you get to the point where you realise there is just so much rubbish and you want to do something about it. I saw the two-minute beach clean movement start up a few years ago and that really got me thinking and got me even more interested. Over the last three years or so I’ve seen beach-cleaning grow around the country.
“One of the most interesting things is that people doing this sort of thing all had their own angle on it and then what has started to happen is that they are now coming together, especially with the Blue Planet series on TV.
“Because I live in Ipswich I tend to concentrate my efforts on the beaches at Felixstowe, from the pier to Landguard Point, and at Bawdsey, between East Lane and Bawdsey Quay. Over the last three years I’ve gained a really good idea what kinds of rubbish I’m most likely to find on each beach. At Landguard, for example, it’s litter associated with shipping, and there’s loads of cotton buds there too. Near the pier it’s more likely to be litter from visitors, such as straws and stuff that is sold to them like crisp packets and sweet wrappers.”
At Bawdsey his bête noire is found in depressing profusion. Mr Alexander sighs in exasperation: “Balloons. The ones that really get me are the helium-filled promotional balloons from places like McDonald’s or estate agents or wherever. I really have a problem with them. They’re given out to kids who don’t understand what’s being promoted and nobody else reads them so there’s not much business sense in doing it anyway, and then they let them go and they end up all over the place.
“The highest number I’ve found on one walk is 24 and at Bawdsey they seem to get caught in the vegetation around the cliffs – it’s a terrible problem.”
With his pincer pick-up device and a huge collecting bag, Mr Alexander clears the beaches of a vast array of discarded items that certainly illustrate the insidious nature of plastic – and its longevity. For example, he has collected scores of plastic tops of Smarties tubes - a little detective work has revealed that some originate from pre-metrification days and date from the early 1970s.
One of the biggest questions that has to be answered in the battle to beat the plastic scourge is what to do with it all after it has been removed from beaches and other natural environments.
“This is an important point,” said Mr Alexander. “Not many people understand what plastic can be recycled - we are still learning a lot about that, myself included. Some has ended back in landfill but we must try to move away from that now and actively sort out with a view to recycling.”
His two big ideas for 2018 have fired Mr Alexander with increased fervour.
He will be trialling his beach clean-up business networking idea soon at Bawdsey after collaborating with the I Roll Up My Sleeves alternative business networking social enterprise initiative based in Needham Market.
He is also hatching an ambitious plan for a beach-clean marathon. Inspired by the heroics of Suffolk’s Mat Bayfield, the Broadside Boys folk singer who is living with an inoperable brain tumour and who has raised funds for the Brain Tumour Charity, Mr Alexander will help the same cause with his own version of a marathon laster this year.
With a “small core group” of like-minded friends he plans to carry out clean-ups on 12 Suffolk beaches covering 26 miles over the course of six days - and he hopes members of the public will join in at each location. All the rubbish collected will be kept and sorted - and exhibited at an awareness-raising event to be held at The Froize Inn, Chillesford, near Orford, where he has successfully teamed up with Froize owner David Grimwood in a popular Wild About Froize nature-filming project.
More information about Mr Alexander’s beach clean-up business networking plans and his beach clean-up marathon can be obtained from him at Jason@wildlifegadgetman.com or phone 07834 375917