A Story of Beach Cleaning by Keith Hunt
Written by Keith Hunt, local beach cleaner in West Somerset.
Published 13th April, 2022
Growing up at Dunster in West Somerset, I spent a lot of my childhood down at the beach and enjoyed beachcombing as the tide went out seeing what had washed in on the tide and imagining where in the world it might have come from. My first actual beach clean took place 50 years ago when my weekly children’s magazine ‘Look-in’ featured an article on Keep Britain Tidy and asked readers who lived near the beach to do a litter survey on a 200 yard section of beach and record the type of litter found and send in the survey results. The owners of the beach were impressed with what I was doing and asked if I would like to earn some pocket money during the school holiday which I did. Back then, plastic on the beach was limited to beach balls (often given away with a tank of petrol) and beach sandals. Bottles were glass and usually returnable for a deposit and there was no such thing as bottled water unless you filled it from a tap yourself!
Apart from 3 years working in London during the 1980’s, I have always stayed near the West Somerset coast and countryside where I always make sure I have a bag on me in case I find some litter.
Fast forward to 2017, I was invited to become a ‘Litter Heroes Ambassador’ for Keep Britain Tidy along with 99 others around the country to promote the work of the charity and encourage others to do the same. To date, there are now 300 of us who organise litter picks, talk to schools and groups about the difference they can make to our environment.
I’m sorry to say that since my early litter picking days, the amount of rubbish on our beaches has increased dramatically with plastic bottles and packaging being the main problem. However, plastic fishing waste is also a huge problem with line often tangled up in seaweed and trawler net remains often washed up. During my holiday in the Hebrides last year, I was beach cleaning everyday and collected around half a ton of rubbish washed up but huge nets I found were impossible to move due to their weight. Again, plastic bottles were the main problem but it was rare to find a whole one plus the hundreds of bottle tops I found among the pebbles. Another plastic problem was coating from lobster and crab baskets which breaks away as the basket begins to rust.
On a positive note, there is more awareness about use of plastic and littering these days so hopefully, we might begin to see a slow reduction in what we find although it frightens me to think how little time plastic has existed and how much is in our oceans.