Making a difference - beach clean volunteers

, 16 May 2022
Making a difference - beach clean volunteers
Beach clean © Miles Davies

Julia Hoare

Approximately once a month, a number of Sussex Wildlife Trust volunteers turn out to conduct a beach clean and litter survey on one of our Sussex beaches.

Armed with a litter picker, pencil and a survey sheet they set out to forage for litter including small items that may be hidden in the sand, pebbles or amongst the strandline seaweeds.

At first glance beaches can look very clean but the surveyors forensic style search usually reveals a multitude of items; a running tally of litter collected is kept as volunteers note down every item they find. At the end of the beach clean the litter is weighed, tallies are added up and wherever possible items are sorted for recycling.

Along with the data from thousands of other surveys around the UK, our Sussex Wildlife Trust data is submitted to ‘Beachwatch’ the Marine Conservation Society’s national litter survey programme which has been running for nearly 30 years. This long-term data set is not only unique, but is hugely important in helping to identify beach litter trends and patterns over time.

Beachwatch data is shared nationally and internationally with hundreds of organisations that are working to help stop marine pollution and protect our seas. These organisations use the data to lobby Governments for legislative change, influence industry practices and drive campaigns that aim to change corporate and public behaviour.

To date some significant achievements of the Beachwatch litter survey data include the introduction of the plastic bag charge, the ban of microplastics in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling and progress towards a ban or tax single use plastics and a deposit return system.

So far in 2022 our volunteers have collected and surveyed over 3800 items of litter collectively weighing 143kg from the Sussex Coast. Approximately 66% of these items were plastic or polystyrene; items that would have degraded into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics that cause such a problem to wildlife. This volunteer work is not only of direct benefit to the local environment, but it also contributes to an important evidence base that will help improve the state of our oceans.

Some of our data:

Year

Litter survey volunteer hours

Mass of litter removed/ Kg

No of litter items surveyed and removed

Notes

2019

570

368

20,303

2020

60

53

2739

Impact of lockdowns

2021

104

87

3390

2022 so far

100

137

3164

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Comments

  • Maria:

    My wife and I have over the last 6-8 weeks been cleaning the beach area in Ovingdean near to Rottingdean we have found 3 lobster pots lots of iron tyres and parts of boats fishing tackle and plastic bags. Mostly around and stuck in between the sea defence roaches and chalk.
    We are proud of what we have done as every little helps, no option to provide pictures but we can do if you want.

    12 May 2022 11:02:00

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust:

    Great to hear about you taking care of your local beach and removing litter. Thank you for your efforts.