What a fantastic turnout for the Clean Up we jointly organised for us, Surfers Against Sewage, the Marine Conservation Society and World Clean Up Day! Around 75 people came along, and particularly great about that were the number of enthusiastic children who are totally engaged with the concept of ocean plastic – some of them are Eco Warriors at Sidmouth Primary School, where we are now running an Eco Warriors Club in order to get Eco Schools status. The first couple of meetings have shown us just how bright and switched on they are, and what great ideas they have. First up is banning single use plastic bottles in school, for which we have a target of one month, and the full backing of the Head so this is a great first step.
Anyway back to the clean up. The Marine Conservation Society asked us to do a 100m survey of what was found so we dispatched two volunteers to do the prescribed strip of beach, and the rest of us spread out. Many came back sort of disappointed, because they’d collected a relatively small bagload of rubbish but of course this is brilliant really as we are really on top of it now. We ended the day with just 3 very full bin bags of non-recyclable rubbish, plus one bag each full of tin cans, glass bottles and recyclable plastic. There were still some plastic glasses looking a bit decomposed already, presumably left over from folk week, but most of the plastic bottles looked pretty new, (mainly the usual double plastic whammies of Lucozade and Ribena).
Without fail, everyone returning said the worst/most numerous thing they were picking up were cigarette butts. We estimated about 1000 of them. I got 110 myself just walking around the area around the sailing club, from the prom to the car park, in about 10 minutes. Lots of questions are raised:
How do we get smokers to realise the plastic pollution they are causing?
How do we get the council to agree to provide butt bins every 50 feet or so?
Should we have sand buckets nicely decorated all along the sea front?
Would the pubs all agree to have covered ash trays or sand buckets outside
Can we have signs around the drains to explain that they lead directly to the sea and aren’t bins?
Can we ask the shops and hotels to put butt bins outside their entrances?
Can all bus stops in the area get butt bins?
Can we unite as a town to recycle everything cigarette related through this scheme.
Can we have no smoking on the beach?
With all these butt bins, can we apply for a grant or get sponsorship for them? Who will empty them and collect the butts together to send off, if we do the Terracycle scheme?
Lots of work to do, will keep you posted. If you fancy helping with the butts, maybe sponsoring a butt bin? or emptying one regularly? or you know a butt hot spot that needs a bin? Let us know!
The main picture above was at the end of the clean up but over half the people had already gone unfortunately, but thanks to everyone who came along to make it such a success, and also hanks to the Sailing Club, and Alan from Streetscene who picked all the rubbish up for us.