Since moving to Beccles in Suffolk four months ago, we’ve taken part in a couple of beach cleaning events – one in Lowestoft and one in Aldeburgh.
Having never done one before, we didn’t know what to expect. We arrived at the meeting point where other people were already waiting, then the organisers handed out work wear – gilets, gloves, grabbers (although I chose to use my gloved hands as I find grabbers frustrating to use), a bottle of water and refuse sacks, then off we went for three and a half hours!
As we had to walk through a car park to get to the beach, there was already rubbish strewn around, which if left, would have blown onto the beach, so our job started straight away and I was already mumbling to myself about why people couldn’t dispose of their rubbish responsibly, but it was to get much worse – the rubbish and the muttering.
Hubs and I walked separately to go at our own speed, and soon I came across what I called ‘party areas’, where people had obviously gathered for a few drinks and snacks but didn’t have the decency to take their rubbish home with them, or use the bins in the car park! What shocked me were the broken glass bottles I found, with jagged edges that would really harm any children or dogs running around. Bottle tops, crisp packets, cigarette butts – that we now know contain plastic – and plastic wrappers from sandwiches etc were all there to be found.
But what really upset me (and gave me back and leg ache for 4 days after the event) were the tiny bits of polystyrene (looked like from takeaway cartons and cups) dotted around. They were tiny, but enough for fish to ingest, and they blighted the sand. I would take one step then bend down to gather the pieces, then another step to repeat the same action – I did a huge amount of squats over the period of time, no wonder I ached! Even though I spent the most amount of time collecting these pieces, I could see there were more but time wasn’t on my side.
On returning the sack to the organisers, they said that everyone complained about the amount of polystyrene they found strewn around – very disheartening.
The second beach clean in Aldeburgh threw up little polystyrene but we did find plastic food wrappers, plastic lolly sticks and drink cans instead. Again, we found some broken glass, and I can’t understand how people can dismiss the harm they may be doing to a human or a beast down the line. It was a shorter event and as such, didn’t feel as satisfying – but at least my body didn’t suffer afterwards.
We will continue to attend these events although it’s sad they have to exist. However, even if visitors to the beach took all their rubbish away with them, there would still be detritus from industries, boats and ships on the water, so I suppose this is a never-ending story (cue for that song).