Beach Clean – Sidmouth Saturday January 5th 10.30am

(This is the write up I did for the Herald so if it’s a bit general that’s why)

I headed down to the beach for this month’s beach clean, wrapped in many layers as it was freezing! I thought the weather would put people off but the warm welcome from the staff at the Marine, who had kindly agreed to host us, buoyed my spirits. We (me and DS2 Luke) set up and were soon inundated with you very cheerful volunteers who all signed in, grabbed a picker and were eager to set off. Soon we had run out of our 50 litter pickers and the last few (who weren’t even late!) were unlucky and had to rely on hands (in gloves of course). We had just over 60 wonderful people, including many families which is great to see.

Low tide really opens the beach up in Sidmouth of course so there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out and cover a very wide area. Personally I concentrated on the front of the pub and the road surrounding it. I spent about 20 minutes cleaning out one drain, which when I lifted the cover displayed around 1000 cigarette ends, plus lots of badly degraded plastic glasses and polystyrene food boxes. It looks a lot better now! 1 cigarette end can pollute up to 5L of water, plus they are plastic, so they are much more harmful than smokers have been led to believe. Dropping them on the ground is something I would love to see an end to.

Everyone began to arrive back about 11.45, with several people saying that they “haven’t got much, which was encouraging”. However, when we put all the bags together, we all realised just how much there still is, if you look carefully. We filled 6 very full binbags (estimated weight about 42kg) plus a bag full of salvageable recyclable plastic bottles, and another of recyclable glass and tins, which was all taken away by Streetscene. Most of the rubbish was degraded plastic, including fishing wire and nets (a huge amount of that was found at Jacobs Ladder end, in the rocks), bottle tops (mainly fruit shoots lids) polystyrene, what looked like fan belts from boat engines, the obligatory single shoe, dummies, plastic cutlery, cigarette ends, some broken glass, bits of metal etc – none of which we want on our beach.

Beach cleaning is a fantastic way of getting out, having a walk, uniting with other caring local people and really making a difference. It also makes you realise just how wasteful our society is, and for a town that relies on its beach to draw in tourists we really need to take care of it. We were joined by two people who have just moved to the area who have been on a cruise and saw for themselves the plastic trash islands floating in the oceans. Once you see it, you can’t ignore it.

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