The beach clean
On Wednesday 29th June, the RSPB team for Langstone Harbour joined up with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to tackle the beach alongside the Hayling Island Oysterbeds, in a bid to try and rid it of as much rubbish as possible. This was no easy feat, as the beach is covered in tiny pieces of litter that are caught up in the seaweed after our last major bout of bad weather, the legacy that storm Katie left behind.
Bits of rubbish caught up in the strandline (photo courtesy of Wez Smith)
This wasn’t the only challenge however, as we were faced with a Force 8 gale and bucket loads of rain, and so needless to say we could not stay for our total allocated time! But despite this, we pushed on for several hours, and were joined by four volunteers who stuck out with us until the end. Very impressive!
What perfect weather for a beach clean...(Courtesy of MET Office website)
Needless to say, we all got a bit wet...but spirits were not dampened! (Photo courtesy of Wez Smith)
For 100 metres of the beach we surveyed all of the rubbish that we found, categorising it and keeping a record of how many pieces we found in order to send the results off to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), who use the protocol to quantify the data for all of Britain.
One very well used survey sheet later!
Full results on items collected for RSPB and TCV Oysterbeds Beach Clean on 29/06/2016 (in accordance with MCS Beachwatch categories).
Looking at the results in this table, our largest amount of litter fits into one category – that of plastics and polystyrene. According to the MCS results for Beachwatch 2015, the largest amount of litter they found fitted into the category of plastics and polystyrene, with 7 out of 10 items picked up being made of these materials. This eventually equated to 960.8 pieces of plastic and polystyrene (0-50cm) for every kilometre of beach. That’s some serious stuff.
The plastic problem
All things considered, it really isn’t hard to see why this is. Have a look around you right now – how many things do you see that are made of plastic? Perhaps you have a pen, a drink bottle, or your comb or hairbrush in easy reach. These are items that we use every single day and sometimes only once before we discard them, often without knowing the implications. When these items are discarded, they can make their way into the oceans, and often stay there for a very long time. Plastic will never biodegrade, it only gets broken down gradually into smaller and smaller pieces, making it much easier for our marine life to ingest almost unknowingly. This has serious implications, as the plastics both release and absorb toxins, as well as causing entanglement and starvation when their stomachs become saturated with plastic products.
It is thought now that approximately 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, often mistaking plastic pieces for fish eggs. The plastic also goes into the fish, releasing toxins into the flesh, and then ends up on your plate.
So what can we do about it?
There are so many ways in which we can help to reduce down the amount of plastic in our world, and we can all do so by following a simple mantra – Reduce, reuse, recycle
Firstly, we can try and reduce the amount of plastic we use. How about buying a re-useable drinking bottle and filling it up at a water fountain, or taking material bags to the supermarket? We can also try our best to buy products in bulk, or buy items packaged in other materials e.g. glass bottles.
Oftentimes, it can feel like plastic use in our everyday lives is virtually unavoidable. So when you have to buy a plastic product, why not try reusing that item for another purpose? There are seemingly hundreds of uses for plastic bottles, from garden planters to change purses, and even a bird feeder! Make something beautiful, have fun and feel good for doing your bit.
The last stage for our plastic products is to make sure that we recycle them. It’s just the difference between making sure you choose the right bin for the right product. A lot of plastics are flushed down the toilet, especially cotton bud sticks and sanitary products, so we can make sure that these go in the bin instead. There are also alternatives, such as the new paper cotton bud sticks that can replace plastic.
These changes to our daily lives can be minor, but if enough of us do it, this could have a major positive impact for our marine organisms. Maybe you could join a local beach clean, organise your own or even do a quick two minute beach clean the next time you are in your favourite spot by the sea.
Today, together, we can do our bit to save nature.
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