In a joint initiative between Strandliners, a voluntary community action group dedicated to beach-cleaning in and around Rye Bay, and the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat (PLIRB), several years worth of accumulated rubbish has been collected from the cove below Fairlight cliffs and bagged up for removal by Rother District Council. This is just one event of the national Surfers Against Sewage Beach Cleans project.

The exercise took two weeks’ effort on the part of a team of dedicated volunteers; each working session, they had to walk out from Pett Level at an hour to coincide with the ebbing tide, pick litter from the isolated cove, and return as the tide flowed back. Last Sunday (6th September) the PLIRB boat was landed and filled up with what had been collected.

For the boat crew it provided useful training exercises on a tricky shoreline. For Strandliners, it was an opportunity not just to clear the beach of unsightly debris but also to survey the type and amount of  materials that get washed along the Channel seashore as part of a larger project to collect data on plastic pollution. 

Andy Dinsdale, creator of the action group, explains that the collection process has five stages: pick, identify, record, bag, bin.  The records can then be used to trace sources of the materials and, where practicable, try to stem the flow. 

The total haul of rubbish filled 107 bags, weighing a cumulative 367kg.  Of this, very little appeared to be litter left by beach visitors – no doubt reflecting the difficulty of access from the land above.  Almost 40% (146kg) was polystyrene (imagine the volume of that) and 21% (76kg) plastic bottles.

“It’s mainly stuff that has floated into the sea from inland waterways and drainage and has then been washed to shore again, or else it’s cast-offs from the marine fishing industry”, says Mr Dinsdale. “But that could be from a long way off: we ‘ve picked up old buoys and boxes that can be identified as coming from Maine on the North American coast.

“The styrene monomer from which polystyrene is made is suspected of causing cancer and other health problems. Styrofoam can break down into polystyrene beads and be consumed by aquatic and marine creatures. 

“As for plastic bottles, we need a bottle deposit return scheme that would stop them being disposed of like this.

“Watch out for the Brand Audit surveys in the next few months, we shall find out the worst polluting brands in our environment.”

Strandliners has a monthly newsletter for details of upcoming beach-cleans
and surveys which anyone can join – see their website

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