Diary of a litter-picker – Winter beach cleaning on the Solent

I am thrilled to announce that I have been awarded a certificate as ‘Beach Picker of the Year’ by Litter Pickers of the New Forest, who presented me with a very good bottle of wine. The sea thanked my sons and three year-old helpers by presenting them with a jar of instant coffee and this ball.

The good thing about winter beach cleans is that, instead of picnic litter, you are in with a chance of finding interesting things washed up on the shore. Along with a Tescos’ ‘bag-for-life’, that we filled with pieces of rope, bottles and part of a lobster pot, I found an unopened can of larger, a decent ball and a pristine jar of Nescafe Gold, fully sealed although dated 19/5/19. It must have been floating about in the Solent for some time.

The storms tend to bring in a lot of old plastic. This fishermen’s litter (below) accumulated in the lee of the causeway, out of the wind, but in a nature reserve where otters can be found.

There was a lot to gather. I need to return for more.

PPE is getting everywhere. I’ve been stuffing the masks I find in a jar. I’ve also been picking up aged polystyrene, tampon applicators and tangled PVC rope.

I sometimes use a counter to record how many items I pick up. This purple bucketload (below) contained 140 items but can take more than 260, as many pieces of sea plastic are small. It usually ends up weighing between 3 and 4 Kgs.

How long will will it take for all this to disintegrate? It’s interesting to date elderly rubbish. Crisp packets can easily last 40 years.

These ones were only aged about 8, which was a bit disappointing.

Odd things turn up. This mallet was made with a groove along the top, which I understand is used by riggers. It looks as if it came from a fairground.

After the gales this November, I found an undamaged fluorescent light bulb washed up on the Solent. This is my third. I gather these contain mercury. Is it British? Has it been flung off a ship?

By contrast, this large lobster pot buoy obviously belongs to someone. It’s been registered as missing on Facebook but with no response.

The important thing is to keep going, collecting a little but regularly:

It’s then that your eye catches small pieces like fishing line – which we nearly missed –

This is one of three fishy lures collected recently.

It’s good to record just how much plastic pollution accumulates over time. I found about 3 Kgs of rope and micro plastics after scouring this remote beach that I had cleared a month before.

This pollution is being retrieved from ecologically sensitive areas within the New Forest National Park and British seas. Sadly, all this now has to go into landfill – apart from the ball and sealed jar of coffee. It was just what we needed at home.

Sophie Neville collecting plastic pollution from Solent shores.

To see some of the things we found beach cleaning in September, please click here

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

16 thoughts on “Diary of a litter-picker – Winter beach cleaning on the Solent”

  1. Hey Sophie,

    Thank you for everything you’ve done this year to help keep the litter down, you’re a an absolute star let’s hope 2021 is a better year.

    Again Many Thanks
    Kind regards
    Stephen
    Litter Pickers of the New Forest.

  2. UK -Masks,gloves,chocolate bar wrappers,crisp packets,cigarette butts,pieces of plastic, plastic bags.
    Plastic pallet,pieces of polypropylene fishing net;
    Most bizarre -WC seat.

    USA-Drink cans,plastic bottles,cigarette butts.

    Caribbean -Plastic sandals/shoes,plastic bottles,
    single use plastic cups,straws.Fast food litter.

  3. Congratulations on your well deserved award. A pleasing end to a difficult and busy year, especially in terms of litter picking by the look of it. I do feel a bit sorry, however, for whoever lost a jar of coffee and a can of lager!

  4. The mind boggles at tampon applicators! But I suppose they are a product of sewage, or of being discarded by boats; neither of which is a very wholesome or savoury thought, and certainly doesn’t make your litter picking very pleasant!

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