Despite the weather forecast 15 hardy souls ventured down to the beach at RSPB Mersehead on Sunday to help us clean part of our 3.2-mile coastline. This was an area that we have not previously cleaned so we discovered a vast array of items from an inflatable swimming pool toy, to balloons, Barbie's hair comb, a Coca Cola crate and of course a multitude of single use plastic bottles.
It's important to carry a specially designated container for placing sharp items such as broken glass and needles.
How on earth does do all these items turn up on our beaches? According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) over 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally every year with at least 8 million tons ending up in our oceans every year. The main sources of marine plastic pollution are thought to be land-based with urban run-off, inadequate waste disposal, illegal dumping, industrial activity and sewer overflows all contributing to 80% of marine litter.
The impact on the marine environment is devastating with ingestion, suffocation and entanglement causing the death of millions of marine wildlife each year. Seabirds, whales, fish and turtles all mistake plastic waste for prey with many dying of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic. They also suffer from lacerations, infections, the reduced ability to swim and internal injuries.
Gannet strangled by fishing wire in the UK (rspb-images.com)
Further afield - A Black-browed Albatross entangled in a trawl net in Argentina (rspb-images.com)
These ever-increasing pressures are putting our internationally important populations of breeding seabirds at risk. Marine wildlife such as basking sharks, delicate cold-water corals and seahorses and are suffering. Scotland has just become the first country in the UK to ban the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton buds. According to the Marine Conservation Society, cotton buds are listed in the top 10 items found on beaches - we found quite a few on Sunday.
Join us for our next beach clean on Sunday 10th November. In the meantime check out WWF's top ten tips for reducing your plastic footprint - https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/ten-tips-reduce-your-plastic-footprint
RSPB and SC Johnson are working together to take action on the issue of marine plastics through a programme reaching over 300,000 people in 2019 and 2020. This work is possible due to their generous support.
Someone pointed out that, of all the plastic which has ever been produced, apart from a tiny fraction which has been burnt, the rest still exists out there somewhere. None of it has yet biodegraded into something harmless.
Well done to you all! Have you removed the big navigation buoy yet?
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