Thirty-nine people joined our Community Day Beach Clean at Rainham Marshes rspb reserve, run in partnership with Thames 21. There were members of our group joined by Rainham volunteers, members of the local community and some families from the American School in London.
Our day started with a welcome from Paul, followed by a briefing from Julia, the Thames 21 organiser of the event, this included what we were to remove and what to leave, how we were to approach the task and an overview of the health and safety requirements. Then we were all off to the seawall where we donned the steel-capped wellies, and protective rubber gloves – you need to be careful that you do not touch any of the rubbish with your bare hands. Armed with litter pickers, brooms, shovels, rakes and – dare I say it – plastic bin liners, we made our way to the foreshore, picked our spot and started to clean.
You may wonder what we were actually collecting? To say “plastic” is rather an understatement! We saw just about every specimen of plastic item possible. The majority it has to be said was plastic bottle-tops, the plastic ‘stick’ from cotton wool buds, bottles both full (we were under strict instructions not to empty them as we did not know what they contained!) and empty, plastic packaging of every type, tampon applicators, pens, combs, there were buckets, plastic crates, even a large gas canister was removed from its muddy home. . . . . well, just judge for yourself – how many different items can you see?
Whilst some risked the muddy foreshore, some of us cleared a concrete path just above the salt marsh. Here the lighter plastics have been thrown by high tides or blown by strong winds. These pieces are smaller fragments which are gradually breaking down into small pieces, which are actually toxic chemicals. These can end up in the guts of animals both at sea and on land where they cause deaths and can affect fertility. Worringly, there were also syringes – right by the side of the concrete path where people walk their dogs. Luckily many of them were without the needle but they were still treated with caution as there is no knowing what drugs remain. .
As the bin liners were filled, they were moved off to a large skip by Ben with the rspb trailer. I noticed at least four loads being moved, but there were probably more, each load probably carrying over 30 bags. When we looked at the foreshore from the seawall it was amazing to see how much better it looked. As the tide came in we retreated back off the marshes, gathered all our equipment, and after carefully washing our hands went off for a well earned lunch.
So thanks go to the reserve for allowing us to carry out our project on their site, to Julia and her team from Thames 21 for arranging the logistics, health and safety and supporting us on the day. The biggest “thank you” of all though goes to those who joined in with such enthusiasm and energy and managed to clear a large area of the foreshore along the River Thames – an achievement you should be very proud of. Well done one and all – and here’s to the next event – watch this space!
More photographs of the day are available on our Facebook page here.