The weather has been so horrid this last week that I have done very little walking, compared to normal. By the time Sunday came around I had cabin fever! I climbed into layers and layers of wet-weather gear and decided to blow the cobwebs away with a walk on the beach.
I purposely walked this short, 700 metre stretch of beach between Greve D’Azette and the Le Dicq slip. I walk here often as it’s the closest beach to home – but last week had found something which worried me, and I wanted to see just how bad the situation was.
Microplastics! Brittle and broken pieces of plastic rolled into tiny balls by the sea and sand. I’d only noticed them towards the end of my walk and, having never seen these on our beaches before, wanted to see if there was more.
And now I’m so sad. I walk this beach often, and with my long-legged stride I just pick rubbish up as I march along. But when you slow things down and stop to look properly, it is such a different story. More and more plastic comes into view, you only need to kneel in one place to get handfuls of small, brittle and broken pieces plastic.
I walked for about 75 minutes, and only really half-filled my bag in that time. But I brought the the bag home, washed and separated every single piece of rubbish that I found, and thought I’d share what I found with you. But beware, it will make you sad too. Or, hopefully, cross!
143 – One hundred and forty three separate pieces of nylon rope, mainly used by the fishing industry. From just an inch long to a few feet, these are mainstays of any beach clean on the beaches in Jersey.
198 – One hundred and ninety eight individual pieces of unidentifiable plastics. Pieces of plastic which have been broken off larger pieces as they get weak and brittle in the sea. Breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces each time.
99 – Ninety nine different bottle tops and caps, with only 5 metal and everything else made of plastic.
52 fifty two straws – drinking straws, lollipop sticks and cotton bud sticks. On a tiny stretch of beach I managed to find 52 straws! Single use plastics that have no place in a modern society.
161 – One hundred and sixty one individual pieces of polystyrene and foam. These pieces were made up of polystyrene boxes broken down into clumps of the balls, blown foam used in parcel packaging, thin foam material used to cover electronics in transit, and those colorful rectangles of foam. Can you help me identify where those rectangles are coming from? I’ve seen them along this stretch of the beach before, but have no idea of their origin.
3 – Three bottles. I was very surprised to find only 3 bottles, two of which were plastic and one glass bottle with a plastic lid.
13 – Five plastic corks and eight lumps of wax. Perhaps it’s time to go back to corks made from, well, cork. Who thought up the crazy idea that we should move away from a centuries old tradition, using a renewable and biodradable option, to plastic?
12 – Twelve plastic lighters and shotgun cartridges. So here’s an idea – lets swap back to using matches, made from a renewable resource which is biodegradable if it should happen to end up in our oceans. The shotgun cartridges are a real conundrum – where are these coming from?
30 – Thirty bits and pieces from sweetie wrappers and packaging.
16 – Sixteen pieces of netting – From pea netting used in home gardens to mesh, to wine protectors.
7 – Seven bits of balloon and balloon ribbons. It makes me sad when balloons are realeased for celebrations or in a persons memory. What goes up, must come down and these really play havoc in the sea. And just how far has that Subway balloon actually travelled, given that we don’t have this shop in Jersey!
366 – Three hundred and sixty six small pieces of plastic, each one the size of a 10p piece or smaller. It’s easy to see how these pieces of plastic have broken down from larger pieces which have grown brittle in the elements. Getting smaller and smaller, but not degrading. A finite resource for a throw-away culture.
486 – Four hundred and eighty six tiny pieces of microplastics in this small tub. This is what really breaks my heart! Broken down the plastics get more and more brittle, smaller and smaller, rolled until there are thousands of millions of them floating in our oceans. It’s easy to see how fish confuse them with food!
44 – Forty four weird and wonderful oddities retrieved from the beach. Included in there are a few piece of Lego lost at sea, bouncy ball, toy horse, golf tee and cutlery. The surprising thing was the number of cigarette holders – where are these coming from? Another worrying trend is the debris from DIY – tile separators, raw plugs and the small white caps from pump action tubes. And the plastic residues from toothpicks – what was wrong with the wooden ones?
ONE THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTY individual pieces of rubbish collected from the beach. One person, a 700 metre stretch of sand, 75 minutes. I am horrified! I knew things were bad, but had absolutely no idea just how much pollution there is, especially the small and micro-plastic pollution. Of the 1,630 pieces found only 6 were non-plastic. 1,624 individual pieces of plastic, retrieved and saved from polluting the oceans.
So what can we do about plastic pollution? We have to do something. Each and every one of us in Jersey use plastic every day of our lives. We need to take responsibility for reducing our plastic use, especially single use plastics which we throw-away so casually. We need to ask manufacturers to consider alternatives to plastics. Businesses need to step forward and keep thinking about the environmental impact of their practices, and customers should hold them accountable. Government must include the fight against plastic pollution at the forefront of their environmental policies. Stand up and use your voice!
But, in the short-term, the plastic pollution flows in on a daily basis – every tide brings more and more. I have joined forces with the wonderful Littlefeet Environemental and we will be holding a micro-plastic beach clean on Sunday. The aim is to focus on the small pieces of broken plastics and the micro-plastics. It needs beady eyes and patience, and you’ll spend most of your time on your hands and knees in the sand. But I promise you it will be worth it! Come and join us at 11am on Sunday 28th of January at the Greve D’Azette Slip, where we will walk along the high tide line and collect the plastics. Please see the Facebook page for Littlefeet Environemental for more information.
I hope to see you there. We truly need you.