On Saturday morning Karrie, Peter and I joined the event organised by RSPB Volunteer, David Saunders, to clean up the foreshore at Cliffe Pools. Thankfully it was a beautifully sunny day but there was a definite chill in the air. We organised ourselves into small groups and drove out to the sea wall. The temperature immediately dropped as we were greeted by a very blustery wind which intensified the chill. David then briefed us on the task ahead pointing out a large empty walk-in skip which he said he hoped we would fill with plastic by the end of the day so that it could then be sent for recycling. My initial thought was that this was slightly optimistic but once we had helped each other clamber over the sea wall (a bit of a challenge in itself!) I realised that this might not be quite so difficult after all.
Despite seeing photos of the rubbish beforehand it was quite a shock to see how much plastic had built up on the shore line. Armed with litter pickers and black sacks the task began. The larger items, mainly plastic bottles, were soon dispatched as people walked along and then disappeared around the corner.
However, we stayed in the small bay picking up the smaller items, jokingly calling ourselves the “microplastics team”! In fact, we spent the whole morning on a very small section of the foreshore as there were so many small items to be collected. During the morning we kept seeing full black sacks being taken over the wall to be put in the skip but had no idea of the number until about 1.45 pm when we were told that the tide was now coming in and the skip was now full, so it was time to go. The larger items that had been collected included plastic drums, life jackets, nylon rope, pens, supposedly disposabale lighters, cups and cutlery and an overwhelming number of plastic bottles. We were amazed that the skip was full as we had only managed to fill a single bag each – not because we were slacking (although we did get interrupted when Pete was interviewed by the BBC Southeast crew) but because we had painstakingly handpicked through the seaweed extracting thousands of cotton buds, bottle tops and small scraps of plastic packaging such as sweet wrappers which had been partially broken down and buried.
So how many bags were collected? A total of ……. 600!
So, a very worthwhile morning’s work we decided – and yes we had fun too! It’s good to know that we helped to fill that huge skip and that at least those 600 bags of plastic won’t be polluting our river and harming our wildlife.