The battle for clean beaches

YWT Beach Clean South Landing, Flamborough
YWT Beach Clean South Landing, Flamborough

Intrepid volunteers took to the idyllic coast of East Yorkshire in an effort to rid its beaches of potentially harmful waste and debris.

Plastic bottles, fishing line, bags and heaps of smaller more dangerous fragments were collected from South Landing at Flamborough during a regular clean of the beach, organised by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The Clean Up Yorkshire campaign encourages readers to organise litter picks throughout June.

The Clean Up Yorkshire campaign encourages readers to organise litter picks throughout June.

Anthony Hurd, general manager of the charity’s Living Sea Centre’s at North Landing and organiser of the event, said the groups’ efforts had a real impact the amount of litter blighting the picturesque spot.

“We find a variety of things, but the smaller pieces of plastic can be ingested by marine animals.

“As the pieces get smaller and smaller, things like seabirds and seals eat them.”

To gauge how much the 24 volunteers had collected last Sunday, a 100 metre-long stretch of the beach was combed for individual pieces of rubbish which were collected, recorded and categorised.

Anthony added: “Over this stretch of beach we collected 230 items of litter. Of these items 64 per cent were made of plastic.

“The most abundant item of litter found on the 100m stretch were 46 plastic pieces less than 2.5cm, closely followed by 32 pieces of polystyrene.

“But we have also found things like fishing lines, nets and trapping bands. They can become wrapped around seals when they are pups and can cause a lot of damage as they grow.”

The data allows an understanding of whether litter is increasing or decreasing at a basic level but also points out trends or peaks in specific kinds of litter. This can then inform future targeted campaigns or projects such as the Trust’s recently laucnhed Fishing for Litter Campaign, designed to encourage fishermen to remove any litter they come across and raise awareness of the problems that marine litter causes for their industry.

In 2014 nearly 6,000 pieces of litter were collected from South landing alone and data now shows a national increase in litter plaguing our coasts.

However Anthony said he has seen a decline in the number of larger items washing up on the short of Flamborough Head’s South Landing, and is confident the beach cleans really do alleviate the problem.

Last year’s worst recorded ‘grot-spots’ along the North and East Yorkshire coasts were Reighton Sands, between Filey and Bridlington where around 10,000 pieces of litter recorded. Scarborough’s South Bay followed close behind with 8,00 pieces.

The Trust also held the events at beaches in Filey, Hornsea, Sandsend, Mappleton, Spurn, Flamborough’s North Landing, Runswick Bay and Sewerby Bay.

Of the 11 spots cleaned last year, volunteers scoured 3415 metres of beach and collected 207 bags of rubbish. The total number of individual pieces of rubbish collected was 13,324, equating to 3,902 items found in every kilometre cleaned.

Plastic rubbish topped the charts in 2014, making up over half of rubbish cleared from the Yorkshire beaches.

When last year’s figures are compared to 2013’s, plastics remained remain in the number 1 position. Polystyrene pieces moved up from fifth to second but fishing net, fishing line, string and chord, cloth pieces and aluminium drinks cans all disappeared from last year’s top 10 list.

However the trust recorded and increase food wrappers, foam, sponge, insulation, cigarette stubs, caps, lids and fast food containers.

Despite efforts of the charity and its volunteers, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said it is unable to even scratch the surface of an issue which 
affects the world over.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “The problem is global and sadly seems to be getting worse. An estimated 20,000 tonnes dumped in the North Sea each year alone but marine litter affects every known stretch of water and both populated and remote beaches worldwide.

“To make any significant difference, the solution has to come from a multidisciplinary approach by the global community at every level. From legislation to deal with discharge of rubbish at sea and penalties for pollution, a massive reduction on the manufacture and use of single use plastic items and projects like ours which work at a grassroots, local level. If every individual made a small change, the impact would be massive.”

A further beach clean has been organised by the Trust at Filey on Sunday 5 July, volunteers will meet at the bottom of Martin’s Ravine.

A beach clean and litter art day will also take place at Flamborough’s South Landing on Monday 27 July at 10am (booking essential).

A report on the Trust’s Fishing for Litter campaign will feature on the Countryfile this Sunday at 7pm on BBC 1 as part of an East Yorkshire-focused episode.