I’ve been getting involved in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean – making an attempt to spring clean the section of the South Coast where we live, only to be shocked by our own findings. Some of the plastic washed up on the Solent has been around for so long the vegetation has grown over or through it. This is not a rock:
This bucketful of flotsam was brought in by one storm, although some items must have been floating around for a while.
A week later I found this washed up on the same 600yard stretch of Solent foreshore:
I collected these tins, plastics and polystyrene from a tidal riverbank.
Our waterways are full of drink cans.
The sheer amount of bottles that must have been thrown out of moving vehicles, is staggering. All this needs to be sorted and recycled.
I have found a number of discarded tools including carpenter’s saws. My husband wanted to resurrect these pliers, but they were beyond hope.
There is often a mask amidst the detritus, none of which will rot.
What distresses me most is the ardent fly tipping. These cans of motor oil were nearly full and looked uncontaminated. Why were they discarded? How many litres of river water would they pollute?
These full containers were dumped in a nature reserve within the New Forest National Park. Does someone imagine these things will decompose?
Get involved in Keep Britain Tidy – its fun! You can find more info here
The initiative inspired me remove rubbish from the ditches in earnest. Ours is a very beautiful area. I like working alone as I can go out when the weather is appropriate and fit in litter-picking with my work and Solent tides.
~A stolen handbag found in a nature reserve~
The results of my efforts:
Litter collected in one month: Total: 1360 minutes ~ about 22 hours
97 x glass bottles, milk bottles and occasionally jars – all recycled by my husband. About 5 of the bottles were half-full with vodka.
300 x plastic bottles including plastic milk bottles chucked into the river where there is a sign saying ‘Otters Crossing’.
I small bag of plastic bottle tops – saved for MENCAP
300 x empty drink tins – mostly alcoholic drinks found road verges. People must be drink-driving
9 x large rubbish bagsof mixed litter, weighing about 60kgs: sweet wrappers, crisp packets, sandwich wrappers, disposable coffee cups with lids, drink can wrappers – often neatly knotted, cigarette packs, stubs, old lighters, plastic tobacco bags as well as socks, gloves and other items dropped by mistake.
This doesn’t sound a lot however, when I counted the items, it could take 1,000 pieces of plastic to fill a typical black bag. It could take only a few. Conservation International say, ‘Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way to into our oceans. Well, I’ve reduced that a by tiny bit.
Stolen items found:
Jewellery box with sentimental treasures including a wrist watch, a silver filigree broach and a bracelet engraved with the name Shirley
Leather holdall containing a pair of embroidered slippers.
HP laptop with a silver coloured case
Empty leather jewellery box for earrings
Discarded make-up bag (possibly from a stolen hand-bag)
Handbag containing spectacles, make-up and hair brush but no valuables – was able to inform the owner who is coming to collect it.
Vehicle parts found
Part of the bumper of my husband’s car. ‘I thought it would turn up sometime.’
4 x wheel hubs (one claimed after I put it on display)
Tow-bar cover (given away as a present)
Car bumper – a huge white one
Space-saver spare wheel for a car
Motor tyres x 5
Back shelf of estate car
Metal rod and rubber seals
Reverse light cover – undamaged
5 – litre diesel container with fuel inside
2 x mudguards from bikes
Rubber roller from a RIB trailer – (returned to grateful owner)
Grey grill off a Mercedes – undamaged (anyone want to claim it?)
Council signs found buried in ditches and the estuary
Men at Work sign
Narrowing road sign
Part of a chevron sign someone drove through
3 x temporary road sign stands
Tall black and white stripey bollard
3 x plastic bollards and a sandbag
I wasn’t quite quite sure how to cope but a volunteer from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust collected the heavy tyres. I’ve piled up road signs I found for the council to collect but he rusty a metal wheelbarrow still needs removing from the ditch that carries floodwater.
Week one: 325 minutes
Week two: 60 minutes
Week three: 430 minutes
Week four: 395 minutes
Week five: 150 minutes
The results have been uploaded at Keep Britain Tidy What I need to do in future is to record how far I have walked and map the stretches I’ve cleaned. I still have to tackle this dirty beach. Three loads have been removed but more awaits. Anyone want to take it on? Otherwise, you can help by pledging your support for the Great British Spring Clean here
As for me, I will continue to walk my dog with a bucket in one hand. It would be too awful to lack a container when I came across rubbish. I’ll keep a list of the things I find for this time next year. However, the project for May is to clean out our garden shed and the clutter in my own office.
~Things I’ve found on Solent shores, including the buckets~
Day 21 –
Our garden has become a retirement home for old buoys. As the school holidays began small children arrived, intent on pestering them. While dear old Mr Puce tolerates being punched, kicked and swung on, Miss Black, a fender who I found washed up on the shore, has a new role as a swing seat. I’m growing quite fond of her.
‘Oh buoy, Oh buoy – Give us a wave!’
Mr White, an elderly buoy who had obviously been working on the Solent, was offered a new role on the Beaulieu River but has opted for a swinging job on a climbing frame in South London. Mr Pink, who had a career in the chemical industry before taking up life on the ocean wave, has passed on, along with an old buoy who sadly got cut up and split his sides open.
‘Where do you find them?’
‘In the New Forest National Park.’
The children are revolted.
The truth was that my dog and I returned home with a number of plastic drums and 5 litre containers I’d previously pulled out of a remote wetland area.
Time spent collecting this rubbish: 40 minutes.
Day 22 –
I sort the litter I’ve collected since the beginning of the Great British Spring Clean: 20 green glass bottles, 20 brown glass bottles and 20 clear glass bottles plus about 10 assorted glass receptacles. Most were so dirty I’ve had to soak them. My husband takes them to be recycled. This is important to him as he used to manufacture cut glass crystal and knows you can’t make glass without glass. A four year-old boy helps me count 137 squashed tins that once contained alcohol. They fill one recycling bag. I can’t bear the thought of counting the plastic bottles. This takes 20 minutes.
~137 tins which once held alcohol, found along one country lane~
I need to sneak off without the dog knowing. It’s too dangerous for him to come when I collect litter beside the main road. I work away for about 15 minutes deciding a lot of people must be drink-driving. Only drivers chuck litter into the verges here. They must have serious disassociation issues to chuck it out while negotiating the sharp bends.
One driver obviously wasn’t concentrating when coming down the hill. The car didn’t turn around the bend at all. It carried straight on, splitting a large black and white chevron sign in two and landing upside-down in the river. The lights were still on when I passed by on my usual litter-picking walk. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. The vehicle had been wrapped in police cordon tape by the time I returned but lay leaking oil into the river for six weeks. I extracted one half of the chevron sign at the start of the Great British Spring Clean. It’s going begging if anyone would like it to decorate their bedroom. The council couldn’t possibly use it.
Day 23 –
What I thought might be hay-fever turns out to be full-blown cold. I have no energy to expend sorting the carefully gathered rubbish piled up outside my back door. My husband returns from re-cycling the bottles saying that they don’t separate the coloured glass anymore.
~This section of the Solent foreshore was multi-coloured with mirco-plastics 15 years ago~
We have a Portuguese friend staying who also has a bad cold and wants to collect seawater to clear his sinuses. I take him down to the Solent. Here I collect micro-plastics including drinking straws, a balloon and 5kgs of rubbish from a wetland area. The whole exercise takes 90 minutes as the location is quite remote.
Day 24 –
My cold is pulling me down but I find a wheel-hub and spend 20 minutes gathering litter from the roadside going up a hill, amazed at how much old rubbish I didn’t spot the first time. New items infuriate me. Today a Costa coffee mug sits on a ledge overlooking the river like a hidden Easter egg. A banana skin has been carefully folded inside and the cap clipped back on. What does the person who purchased this assume will happen next? It’s madness. Costa give customers a 25p discount if they provide their own mug.
I’m told that nothing can be labelled ‘disposable’ anymore. Things don’t disappear, we simply move them to another place. I maintain that vegetables decompose and chuck the banana skin into the undergrowth but collect the cup with its plastic cap. I know Costa want to recycle this but I can’t walk into all the way into town especially.
Day 25 –
I’m ill in bed nursing my cold but get up in the evening determined to collect another bucketful of rubbish from the main road. I find a discarded ‘Bag for Life’ on the verge and return with quite a number of tins and empty bottles of alcohol.
Are glass bottles being flung out of moving vehicles? I spend a total of 40 minutes collecting and sorting as refuse is collected first thing tomorrow.
Day 26 –
I close my laptop at 6.00pm and spend 40 minutes in search of litter on footpath up to the pub and the main road on the way down. A number of cans have been shredded by a hedge trimmer that breaks glass bottles and makes everything more difficult. I fill a large bucket with cans and a black plastic bag with other rubbish before coming across a discarded road sign. The wheel hub I propped up for motorists to find is still in situ. I wonder how many have been collected by #litterheroes this month?
What do drivers think of me as I grub around at the side of the road? What would they think if I chucked the rubbish back into the road? I get upset when I find newly strewn litter but what can I do? Arrange a line of cans across the lane? String up plastic bottles like Christmas decorations? Would it stop anyone littering?
Day 27 –
I spend the evening walking along the Solent shore, alone with the dog, the sea birds and micro plastics. I photograph my catch before loading the hard stuff. It is clear that some pieces, including a balloon, must have already passed through the digestive tract of an animal, possibly a forest pony.
My aim is to collect bottles and ancient plastic containers lodged in the mud on a footpath running through a wood where I once found Mr-Pink-the-chemical-container in a down-and-out state. I recognise one turquoise bottle from the 1960s. The expedition takes 90 minutes.
Day 28 –
The lady whose stolen handbag I found contacts me to say she can pick it up on 24th April – the last day of the Great British Spring Clean. I still have so much to do.
I take my buckets down to the Solent beach I need to clean. Parking rules have suddenly changed. I’m required to pay £2.50 an hour. Thousands of pounds have obviously been spent on the terminal for the Isle of Wight ferry but this beach next to it, which could be a great asset, has been ignored.
I squeeze my car into a friend’s driveway and take my buckets down to the shore. It is like a rubbish dump. Every time I pull up a section of plastic, sand flies rise. I stuff as much as I can into a bag and gather bottles, plastic straws, fishing net, a yachting cap and other flotsam, and depart with as much as I can carry. The last thing I find is a fairy liquid bottle that must be 30 years old. It’s suddenly all too much. 40 minutes and I have hardly made any impression on the filth. I need to return with friends. As I write this, a neighbour messages me to say she’ll join me. If we work together it’ll be more amusing.
~Which is the oldest plastic bottle?~
What impact has this project had on my life? I have become more dedicated to recycling. Every milk bottle top gets saved for MENCAP. Every tin is crushed and recycled. The amount of domestic rubbish we produce has decreased – as has my waistline. All the walking and bending is keeping me fit. At this rate I might just gain the figure of a Fairy Liquid bottle.
In an attempt to turn the tide on pollution I am making a concerted effort to record how long I spend collecting litter and how may items are collected in the categories: plastic bottles, glass bottles, general rubbish and drink tins but find myself dragging other items such as road signs out of ditches.
I’m am on the phone to the police as I write, reporting another stolen item. A sodden, empty jewellery box looked up at me from a ditch this evening. It was in plain view of the road. I had just collected one bucket of bottles, one of empty cans and one of general rubbish along with a road traffic bollard, the back shelf of an estate car and a sodden carpet. This took 90 minutes of concerted effort. Retrieving rubbish from an overgrown ditch is tricky. Some was hanging from the trees. However, this is the New Forest National Park. It’s important to persevere. One unopened tin of larger was dated 1990. It must have been lying there for thirty years. An odd conical can of UHT milk had the same ring pull. I’ve no idea of the date. It is made of both plastic and tin.
The police tell me that they will never be able to find out who took the jewellery box and suggest I dispose of it. It’s the sixth item of stolen property found on the same lane.
~A 30 year-old lemonade bottle gnawed at by mice~
Another hour of my life is spent filling my three buckets with litter. I collect 23 drink cans, 8 glass bottles and 16 plastic bottles including 2 x 2 litre unopened bottles of cider from the local nature reserve. My powers of observation are increasing. I walked along a path which I have already cleared twice and yet spotted tins and bottles, which are decidedly elderly.
I find a full bag of make up in the lay-by, which looks as if it was chucked out of a stolen handbag. It would be the 7th stolen item. What really worries me is a pair of tights, a girl’s skirt and a in the undergrowth femur nearby. Had someone been murdered? I returned home to Google ‘human femur’ and ‘difference between deer and human femur’ (which is not much).
The dead body I feared finding turned out to be a life-size doll. I dragged a pair of huge high-heeled shoes and fancy items of clothing out of a marshy patch nearby. Ironically, the next thing I found was a plastic sack with hundreds of packets labelled: Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research – ‘PLEASE GIVE good quality clothing and paired shoes – your collection day is Thursday.’
There was also a large bag of incontinence pads (unused). Being absorbent these had filled with water and expanded in a grotesque manner as I tried to lift the sack. They were so heavy it was all I could do to swing it towards my car. I had to use two bags from the council to contain the load. Why were all these things these dumped in a wood?
The dog was desperate for a proper walk so I took a bucket and went up the hill. The only people I came across were George and Kate Heathcote of Warbourne Farm, known for the Animal Planet television series Farm Life. They tell me that have been collecting roadside litter constantly and also came across a large doll in the woods. Creepy.
I walk on, startling a deer. It’s legs are far to fine for the femur, which I decide must be bovine. I return with only 13 cans, 4 glass bottles, 3 plastic bottles and a spare wheel but found much more ‘other rubbish’ than normal including a kite. The whole expedition takes 90 mins with another 10 mins to sort it all out
I’m finding quite a few roadwork signs and the sandbags used to prop them up. I stack them by an electricity substation and plan ask the council to collect these after on 24th April when the Great British Spring Clean Officially ends. Other litter-pickers report estate agents’ signs are also a problem. We liaise on Facebook. Some collect huge quantities.
I begin to clear the busy road up the hill behind our house and find an open penknife, along with the usual litter. I spend a total of 90 mins collecting and sorting the rubbish, putting out 5 sacks for the refuse collectors.
I look at the littered verges as we drive to a hotel in the New Forest where I am giving an illustrated talk on my next book. While speaking about the art of litter-picking over lunch, the gentleman opposite me says that he found a life-size doll whilst he was working for the Forestry Commission. Three in the same area.
Do people enjoy chucking litter into our woods and rivers? Does it give them a sense of release? Is it that people despise what they throw away? I usually pick up one used cigarette lighter a day. Most litter seems comprised of the wrappings of what is bad for us: cigarette packets, sweets, over-flavoured crisps, sugary drinks, alcohol and fast food. Much of this is unfinished, which makes it even more revolting to collect. I presume it’s natural to disengage from what poisons you as quickly as possible.
It’s been a wet day and I’m too busy to do much but collect 16 pieces of litter as I walk along the river to Book Club. I find a rubber tow-bar cover, which I present to my friend as a hostess gift. She says she is thrilled receive what she describes as a knob guard. I entertain the other members with tales from my litter-picking. Two of them offer to join me. Total for the day about 5 minutes.
One of my Twitter friends called Becca noticed how ironic it was that people who consume caffeinated drinks never seem to have the energy to dispose of them. I collect about 7 on my way into town only sorry I can’t recycle them as I drop a mixed bag of rubbish into a municipal litter bin. An old friend joins me for a walk in the evening. I take a bucket as we stroll along the sea wall and collect detritus washed up by the tide. There are no bottles, no tins and we enjoy beautiful sunny weather. Total for day 95 minutes
This month I have been re-energised in my endeavour to collect litter by taking part in the Great British Spring Clean under the auspices of Keep Britain Tidy. They encourage their registered #litterheroes to keep a diary:
Day 8: Friday 29 March
I find another unopened can of beer on the pavement in Tooting where I am staying in South London. The general attitude to litter seems almost medieval, accepted as normal and tolerated by residents who rely on road sweepers to clean up rubbish scattered by foxes. My friend did not want me to think of touching it without gloves but she can’t stop the children picking up lost toys. Each time we pass a shopping trolley of garden waste, abandoned in the street, we see it has attracted more litter. How long will it stay there?
Day 9: Saturday 30 March
I’m off to Premier Radio’s Woman to Woman conference in central London. Litter in the streets seems to be an indication of poor diet. You can see what is being recklessly consumed: sugar-laden drinks, sweets, flavoured crisps, fast food, alcohol. Do we have a natural urge to discard what is bad for our bodies?
Cable ties lie the pavement in Westminster. Although not cheap, builders seem to cut and cast these aside. I picked up a handful that could easily be re-used. PVC cable ties were originally manufactured by my father. He would have wept to see how many are wasted or left to pollute the Earth.
Day 10: Sunday 31 March
Back on the south coast, I find an empty beer bottle, coffee cup and two dog poo bags sitting on the flood defense gate over the Lymington River, left as if for passers-by to admire while they take in the view over the nature reserve. What next? Have these items been carefully placed for me to collect? What if they fall into the river? Could the beer bottle ever jam the sluice gates open and cause flooding? The plastic will be washed into the sea. I give in and collect the items, only grateful they don’t have to be fished out of the brambles.
I go out latter for ten minutes, finding a full bottle of beer along with a large number of cans on a footpath leading to the pub. Some of the tins have been minced by a hedge trimmer, which is maddening. We must clear the verges this spring before vegetation grows. I retrieve another expensive roller from a boat trailer and a various car parts that owners might like returned.
Day 11: Monday 1 April
The police arrive to examine the HP laptop and jewellery box I found chucked in the river last week. A silver bracelet engraved with the name Shirley lies inside. Everything is taken to the police station. The officer recommends putting a photo on Facebook in an attempt to find the rightful owner. My post soon has 92 shares. I only hope it is not too upsetting.
~Do you know anyone called Shirley who is missing this?~
I also post a photo of a strange car part found yesterday and am told it is from a Mercedes. A grateful lady comes to collect the roller from her boat trailer. I continue picking up litter from the lane alongside the Lymington River and spot something familiar. It is the mud-guard that fell off my husband’s car weeks ago. I am thrilled. He says, ‘Oh, I thought it would turn up some time.’
Day 12: Tuesday 2nd April
The council message me to ask if I can tell them where three road signs I dragged out of the ditch can be located. I find one has already disappeared from the verge where I left it. I collect a rusty car radiator and two buckets of rubbish from the lane running alongside the nature reserve. Its raining, the dog won’t join me and am beginning to feel morose when I am struck by the sight of a double rainbow, arching over my buckets left in a gateway. It is as if I am being thanked for all I am doing.
Day 13: Wednesday 3rd April
I resume collecting bottles and cans from the lane wearing rubber gloves and Wellington boots, jumping into the ditch in an effort to extract bottles and cans before they are washed into the sea. What do you conclude when you find a lipstick in a wild, marshy place? I discovered a handbag not far away and kept searching the area, coming across an iPhone and an Acer laptop.
Back at home, I go through the handbag with care, looking for something with the owner’s name, as the police officer taught me. I ring the number on a pile of identical business cards and eventually get through. The owner is travelling through London on a bus. Her bag had been stolen from her car ages ago but she sounded very pleased to hear from me and said she’d come to retrieve it.
Day 14: Thursday 4th April
As requested, I’ve been posting photos of my litter activity on social media, desperately trying to edit attractive photos of garbage for my Ingram feed. I begin to lose followers on Twitter but gain others as support grows. Encouragement helps no end.
People are making a difference but the task seems endless. One volunteer from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust filled a long-wheel based Land Rover with rubbish from the Lymington causeway last year. Although an ecologically sensitive area it has somehow attracted more rubbish.
Today it was cold and raining hard. The road drains were blocked. I wonder why? I reached down to pick up one piece – just one piece – but if I don’t a dolphin could die.
2,500,000 pieces of litter are dropped in the UK every day. It amounts to 912,500,000 pieces a year. This costs nearly £1 billion to clear up. As we all know, much lies languishing in our lanes and beaches. We need to collect it ourselves.
Keep Britain Tidy ask volunteers to divide rubbish collected into three categories: ‘plastic’, ‘cans’ and ‘general waste’. I decided to add ‘glass’, wondering how many bottles I will find between 22nd March to 23rd April 2019, the period ear-marked for the Great British Spring Clean, 2019.
The diary of a litter picker:
Day 1: Friday 22 March, 2019
I register on-line with Keep Britain Tidy and spend 40 minutes cleaning a footpath leading through a smart housing estate on the way back from hospital. I’m appalled by the stinky litter and glad to be wearing rubber gloves. I’ve never found the need for a grabber or gloves when cleaning beaches. Now it is essential. Numerous plastic bags containing dog poo hang off bushes, more lie under shrubs. I notice packets, wrappers, cans and bottles everywhere, amazed at the amount of rubbish lying in private gardens.
After work, I spend 60 minutes collecting roadside litter from a lane running through the New Forest National Park, taking a pink bucket I once found washed up on the shore as a receptacle for general rubbish. I use a purple one for glass bottles and an orange bucket that soon contains 27 empty alcohol cans. Are motorists drinking whilst driving? I find two unopened cans of Stella, along with a new tube of muscle-relaxant cream, a bike-lock cable and an old milk bottle that had grown into the mossy stream bank. I chatted to BBC Radio Solent, live on air, explaining that I would never have guessed these items were lying by the roadside. They were hidden in the undergrowth, posing a danger to wildlife.
Day 2: Saturday 23 March, 2019
I spend 45 minutes collecting an empty 25 litre tub of bleach, a 5 litre tub of French Elf Diesel, a number of bottles and other plastic pollution from a footpath near the Solent shore, taking all I can carry. I use my large purple bucket, which can take broken glass and doesn’t flap about in the wind.
The bucket is easy to lay down while I dig around in the bushes with barbecue tongs. I wonder how old all this stuff is. How long has it been accumulating in the woods? On the way home I stop to pick up an old coat from the verge. It’s been there ages.
Day 3: Sunday 25 March, 2019
I spend about 20 minutes collecting fishing net, bottles, and elderly plastic including flip-flops and a neon pink buoy washed up on a small beach, whilst with a journalist and photographer from the Daily Mail. They are staggered by the age of the packets I am collecting. We find a crisp packet that has been sunbathing on the beach for at least eight years.
I show the journalist and photographer rubbish left by a homeless person who was obviously camping in our local nature reserve. How much of this is a reflection of addiction, poor mental health and homelessness in our society?
I take the photographer a short way along the river where I have cleaned the verges repeatedly but feel more needs to be done. We find a can of diesel and a metal wheelbarrow clogging the ditch which needs to be clear to avert flooding.
Day 4: Monday 26 March, 2019
It takes 80 minutes to collect rubbish from the Solent foreshore. I take an old friend who is amazed to see how much we find on a section of coast that appears clean at first glance. I effectively give her a demo on how scratchy and time-consuming it can be to extract litter from brambles and blackthorn bushes. With her help, I retrieve 3 glass bottles, 9 plastic bottles, one beer tin, a heavy plastic container, cotton bud stalks, a Durex packet, wrappers, polystyrene, gaffer tape, a broken For Sale sign, a domestic scourer, a section of astro turf, fishing rope and micro plastics. It’s a bright sunny day and we enjoy ourselves hugely, encountering wild ponies and seabirds.
Day 5: Tuesday 27 March, 2019
Someone commenting on Facebook said: ‘You’re very lucky to have the free time on your hands.’ I am grateful I can get out and about but it’s not as if I don’t work all day. I multi-task. I normally collect rubbish as I walk the dog or go into town. Anyone can collect litter as they walk to work, or school. If we each picked up three pieces a day it would make a huge difference and surely benefit our quality of life.
Today, 20 minutes are spent collecting litter and 30 minutes reporting what I found to the police. Whilst picking up cans and cartons from the verge in the lane that runs along the river, I spot a leather hold-all behind an electricity substation. I find it open with a large jewellery box inside. Socks – one sign of a break in – are lying near the soaking wet bag.
I ring the police who ask me to take it home. I’m longing to return to the items to their owner. Some of the sentimental things inside will be retrievable. I think I’d better go down to see if there is anything more and discover a silver-topped HP laptop in the undergrowth. I inevitably collected more litter: total for the day 139 items plus an enormous car bumper. Since the Daily Mail have asked if they can photograph all I find, this is lugged home too. My garden is looking like a scrapyard.
Day 6: Wednesday 27 March, 2019
I have a hectic schedule today but pick up a few items as I walk to the railway station. It’s difficult finding somewhere to wash my hands. One person in our town must chuck litter out of their vehicle every day. They knot it neatly in exactly the same way before tossing it into the hedge.
Day 7: Thursday 28 March, 2019
I walk along the South Bank in London where rubbish bins are placed every 50 yards. What is litter doing to national morale? Who wants to live in streets strewn with waste? What impact does it have on tourism and jobs? And how can we solve the problem? Insisting on car bins would help.
When I first visited this shoreline seventeen years ago it was multi-coloured. Tiny pieces of plastic, bottle tops and PVC ropes littered the coast. There were huge pieces of refuse that were difficult to shift. Most of it had been washed up, rather than left by visitors. I would take a black plastic bag down to fill with rubbish, but often gave up in despair. Slowly, volunteers have cleared it.
I now try to go down every day to keep it clear of #plasticpollution. Although it looks clean at first glance, I usually fill a large bucket for every mile of Solent shoreline. This will normally contain about 250 items. Most are small ‘micro-plastics’. It involves a lot of bending-down. I sometimes return home weighed down by large items such as ten-gallon plastic drums. I then Tweet photos of my finds on #Solentbeachclean
The usual things I find related to fishing:
Fishing net and PVC rope – often small pieces of green PVC cord, sometimes embedded in the mud.
Fishing line – one length extracted from the mouth of a wild pony.
Anglers’ floats, lures and hooks.
PVC rope, fishing nets and floats.
Plastic grating and discs from crab traps.
Polystyrene in different stages of decay. Some pieces are huge.
Disposable rubber gloves and undisposable protective gloves.
Old buoys of all colours. One was too heavy for me to remove.
25 litre chemical containers used as buoys.
Plastic crates. One from Plymouth, one from the Clyde, one from Brittany. One made a good umbrella when a storm blew in as I walked home.
The usual things I find relating to sewage:
Plentiful cotton-bud stalks and other lengths of plastic.
Tampon applicators and the back of panty liners.
Wet wipes and floss sticks.
Condom packs – some unopened. Bits of old condoms.
Items dropped or washed off boats:
Old paintbrushes and cans of paint
Deck brushes and sponges, plastic buckets and cleaning materials
Cans of WD40, engine oil and lubricants
Plastic pegs – lots
Plastic funnels and nozzles
Half-empty bottle of turpentine (disposed of responsibly)
Pieces of gaffer tape and insulation tape – lots
3 x Fluorescent light bulbs
The usual things I find left by visitors to the shore or washed up:
PPE masks and homemade masks.
Hundreds of spent shotgun cartridges including the insides of paper cartridges.
Old underpants, socks, gloves, caps, t-shirts and other clothing.
Crisp wrappers – the sell-by date of one declared it to be more than 12 years old.
Broken glass – always collected for fear it will cut dogs’ paws or wild ponies.
Glass bottles and jars, recycled by my husband who used to manufacture cut glass crystal.
A sealed jar of Nescafe Gold Blend – which we used.
Hundreds of plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes, along with plastic drums. Many of these are washed up rather than dropped.
Babies dummies and children’s toys
The usual things I find that come in on the tide:
Old cigarette lighters of every colour and hue – about one a day.
Old flip-flops and shoes.
Plastic bags of every description, many buried in the mud.
Bottle tops and bottle rings of every shape and colour, usually plastic.
Plastic straws – about one a day – and cellophane covers to straws.
Plastic cups sometimes colonized by seaweed.
Sweet wrappers, cellophane, wrappers for packets of biscuits or other food.
Plastic hooks and tags of every kind including six-pack plastic.
Toothbrushes, nail files, make-up holders, ear plugs
Syringes and empty packs to tablets
Spray on aftershave and deodorants
Protective masks and PPE masks.
Helium balloons – one or two a day, usually with the string attached.
Flower pots of different sizes.
Little plastic fish, which once contained soy sauce.
Bubble wrap, other packaging and lumps of insulation material.
Brushes of all description, mainly for cleaning boats.
Heavy duty plastic bottles that once contained teak oil or engine oil, including 5 gallon containers.
Sponges and scourers of different types.
Micro-plastics: usually small pieces of blue, red, white or black plastic.
Corks from bottles, some plastic
Plastic bubble making toys
Aerosol cans and drink tins of all kinds.
Dairylea spread cartons and other plastic tubs
Old pens of all descriptions and various plastic sticks.
Old sticking plasters
Plastic cable ties – originally manufactured by my father.
Broken toys including a purple revolver and old balls.
Sophie Neville on a #Solentbeachclean (photo: Octavia Pollock)
People ask if I wear gloves: sometimes. They ask if I take a grabber: usually. They want to know if I am addicted: possibly. I spend about 90 minutes a day or 30 hours a month on my #Solentbeachclean but it keeps me fit, exercises the dog and gets us out while doing something useful. We walk with a purpose. The wind can be brisk but I never get cold.
I go with friends or family. I can fit litter-picking in with my work, taking advantage of good weather. My only worry is getting stuck in the mud. I have to admit that my back gets sore if there is a big haul to lug home but my hunter-gatherer instincts have been awakened. There is treasure to be found.
The unusual things I find:
3 x long fluorescent light bulbs – fully intact. They contain mercury. Both were washed up in the same place, years apart.
Intact domestic light bulb – haven’t had the guts to test it.
Star Wars mask
Rusty welding cylinder – I though it was an unexploded bomb and reported it to the police. Bit embarrassing.
Rusted depth charge – I was told this is a metal buoy but it has been identified as a WWII depth charge.
Old pair of binoculars.
Useful things I have found:
2 x feed buckets, one pink, one orange, used to collect rubbish henceforth
Brand new rubber-inflatable ring, which made a good Christmas present for someone I know.
Life-belts and buoys
Lens cap, that was washed 800 yards down the coast – returned to grateful owner
Brand new carpenter’s saws.
Yellow whistles from life jackets.
Yachting caps x 5. One was labelled and returned to its owner.
Neoprene sun-glass holder – bit grotty
New rope and cord.
Elastic boom-holder for a Scow dinghy
The number 5
2 x children’s plastic beach spades
New garden hose attachments
Wheels from two different dinghy launch trailers
A dinghy cushion akin to a garden kneeler
Sailing kit bag – unclaimed.
Can of WD40 still operable.
Unopened, sealed jar of Nescafe Gold, consumed at home.
Large fenders – some in pristine condition. I gather they cost about £60 each to buy new.
There can be rewards to Wombling, as my friend calls it. I was once filmed trudging along a beach for a Chanel 4 ident. We were given a fee, in cash. This is my black dog, my nephew and me on a beach in Wales: Sophie and the old buoys.