A rare break in the rain in what has been a very wet Winter and Spring (so far) meant that we had a good chance of a clear 2 hours to really tackle the beach for this cleanup. Reports coming back to us from Warriors were that the beach was looking pretty clean, and at first glance it was. However, with at least 82 people turning up, we had time to really get deep in and see what lurked beneath the surface of the stones, drains, rocks and turn over the debris on the shore line.
Overwhelmingly, when the hardworkers returned to the Sailing Club for very welcome cups of tea and coffee (and biscuits of course, thanks very much!), the comments were “lots of small pieces today”. We really managed to get down to the broken up levels – lots of polystyrene, (mainly from orangey-coloured takeaway boxes – where do these originate from in our town – if it’s your favourite takeaway please ask them to stop!); broken plastic glasses pulled out of the drains by the strong-stomached only; bottle lids; squashed cans (always 4 or 6 of the same sort together, no surprises); fishing debris (nets, rope and wire); and many straws, coffee cups, coffee cup lids etc. Thankfully not too many new ones though, it’s definitely getting better. These were old, battered, about to break down on the whole.
One of our Warriors was perplexed by these: small straws with tiny notches on the end. They are of course cotton buds, with the ends missing. We think people are throwing these, along the often-found plastic tampon applicators and nappy wipes, down the toilet. We so wish there could be a campaign about not using the toilet as a bin (this one is from Canada). Also, a campaign about not dropping cigarette ends on the floor or throwing them in a drain – all routes lead to the sea and cigarette filters are not biodegradable; read more at newscientist.com and maybe all the shops, cafés and pubs in town could think about putting cigarette boxes on the walls outside (and emptying them regularly, the one in front of one of the seafront hotels looks full up and overflowing) – some of the shops seem to have an area around the side where the people working there must go for a smoke every day 🙁
Taking into account how small the pieces were I think it’s fair to say we did an awesome job. Some bags that came back were just a third full with tiny pieces; this isn’t as satisfying in a weird way as having two big bags each like some of us did at Woolbrook a few months ago, but with some work sorting out recycling, adding bags together and saving the empty ones for next time, we ended up with 25 full black bags of non-recyclable waste, plus 3 clear plastic bags of sorted recyclables. This was then all picked up by EDDC Streetscene on time as organised, and the area was left beautifully rubbish free! Well done Sidmouth Plastic Warriors!