Many thanks to everyone who turned up on this rainy Sunday morning to clean the beach at Half Moon Bay. It was certainly not a promising start and we were all wet before the beach clean began. However, the rain eventually stopped and 37 volunteers cleaned the beach and carried out a survey of the litter we collected.
In total we collected just under 14kg of which there was a high percentage of small plastic pieces, bits of glass (still sharp) and some bagged dog poo! Also a variety of other items including fishing line, rope and food packaging.
The autumn magazine from MCS has an article about 25 years of beach cleaning and surveying. It seems that marine litter is still going up and we know that small, broken down bits of plastic are highly toxic to marine life as they can be ingested and travel up the food chain.
Some of our recent beach cleans at Half Moon Bay have yielded low weights and volumes of collected litter. However, if we are removing these dangerous pieces of plastic then we must be protecting some of our local marine life and the creatures further up the food chain, including ourselves!
So, please keep joining us on our beach cleans and surveys. The next one is Sunday 1st December at 10:00 am.
Nurdles are pre-production plastic pellets (about the size of a lentil) and of many different colours. These are shipped around the world by the plastics industry and turned into plastic products. Unfortunately these, along with our general plastic waste, are often lost or dumped at sea, and being less dense than water they get washed up on our beaches. Due of their low density they tend to work their way to the surface of the sand, and are caught by the wind and blown anywhere they can lodge anbove the high tide point, such as above a storm tide shingle ridge, or the vegetation behind the beach.
The scale of the pollution at The Cove, Silverdale is so great that it’s looking likely that that nothing can be done. Indeed the problem has been reported all over the world, with logging programs in the US and Scotland:
Fidra – tackling nurdle pollution at source the ‘Great Nurdle Hunt’ was set up in 2014 to track pellet pollution around the local beaches of the Firth of Forth, but has since spread to become a global citizen science project.
As a means of measuring how many are involved I took a sample with a garden auger took it home and 3 hrs of washing the woody bits out resulted in the photo below!
A Morecambe Bay survey would give an indication of how common that situation is locally – so if you have a few hours to spare after your walk on the beach, why not take a sample, as I have done above, and report your findings back?
During our beach clean on Sunday (22nd September) litterpickers found a number of rather strange cord-like objects in the strand line. The objects were generally translucent white, and resembled silicone rubber beading, of the type you might use to seal around the bath or kitchen sink. I brought a sample back home for closer investigation; it was 2.5mm in diameter, and held between tweezers, could be readily stretched by 20 of its resting length (a test section extended readily from 10 to 12cm), and recover apparently undamaged – so, rubber?
The mystery was quickly solved under the microscope, where the cellular structure of the material was evident. The samples were of Chorda filum (I call it sea-whip when I see it diving – for obvious reasons, see the photo below- but I think its common name is actually ‘sea lace’). I couldn’t find any reports of the histology of Chorda filum on the web, so I present a quick report into what might be the rubberiest plant on the planet below the photo!
Histology of Chorda filum
Generally seaweeds have very simple internal structures. Microscopy might reveal a gelatinous/slimy outer layer secreted by an organised skin or dermis, but there is rarely much internal structure to speak of. Seaweeds don’t need to transport water and salts from roots to leaves, as they are continually bathed in seawater, they can rely on diffusion for most transport requirements, so generally they lack the complex vasculature we see in higher plants.
Chorda filum, however, shows a very clever internal architecture; a central lumen stretches up the centre of the entire filament that constitutes the plant’s body. The lumen is surrounded by four or five layers of large box-like cells. These cells are at an angle to the axis of the filament – so they coil like a spring down the plant. This almost certainly contributes to the plants amazing elasticity, though I would not be surprised if there were not further mechanisms at the molecular level.
The box-like cells showed no internal structure in the sample I had from the strand line, but in places there was evidence of a further layer of cone-like cells attached by their apex to the outside of the tube of box-cells. These cells had clear chloroplasts in the wider end, suggesting that photosynthetic activity had been an important role in these cells while the plant was alive. I confess that I don’t understand why these cells are only attached at their apices, but this again might be to allow movement required as the plant is stretched and relaxes as each wave passes over it.
In conclusion; many seaweeds live in extreme environments. Chorda filum seems to have evolved a particularly interesting way of coping with the mechanical stresses of wave motion, and this may be one of the factors that permit it to colonise seabeds that lack good points of anchorage.
Regular beach cleaners with our local group at Half Moon Bay, Heysham will know that we always take a survey of the litter collected and this information is put into a database held by MCS. We thought it would be interesting for people to see the attached graphs which show some of the changes in litter at HMB since 1998.
Although this data may not be very exact it does show some encouraging changes for example items described under “sanitary” have reduced. Perhaps the “don’t flush” campaigns are working?
Plastic bag numbers have come down, though the amount of plastic in general has increased although oddly, glass has increased from 72% to 76% of the total rubbish on the beach.
The local MCS group doubled the survey area at HMB in April 2018 but the amount of litter collected has not increased which is very encouraging. Although sometimes our volunteers are a bit disappointed that there isn’t as much to do!
MCS value the data we submit and believe it to be important for their monitoring purposes. They have asked us to continue to beach clean and survey at HMB.
So, we still need your support and really appreciate everyone giving their time and efforts. Of course you can beach clean/litter pick anytime, anywhere so why not carry out a 2 minute litter pick nearer home?
A big thank you to everyone who turned out for the beach clean at Half Moon bay on the 5th June – a decidedly un-summery evening. The photo is by Ian Croucher, having his first taste of a beach clean, and looking to set up or join similar events with colleagues from work on the railways, so we wish him all the best!
Again the beach was relatively clean – which is good news, though we are seeing more wet-wipes than has been the case in the past. Again a quick reminder to anyone who has not got the message – don’t flush wet wipes. Despite what it says on the packet, they don’t belong down the loo.
Meet up at 11:00 at the Half Moon Bay cafe car park (LW 13:30), or join us on the beach if you arrive later. Please bring suitable clothing and tough gloves (gardening or similar) for picking litter. Organised by Kathy MacAdam
Photo: Picking litter on the GB beach clean earlier this year. Photo by Nicola Darbyshire
Above: Some of the litter pickers and recorders on our september beach clean. Photo Jo Kaye.
The annual Great British Beach Clean and Survey for the Lancashire area group happened on Sunday 16th September at Half Moon Bay Heysham. 46 volunteers took part and removed 22.5 kg rubbish across the whole beach. Including the 200 hundred metres designated for surveys. Our volunteers found 441 small pieces of plastic and 78 larger pieces as well as various other items. That means those pieces of plastic won’t be ingested by marine creatures or birds. Encouragingly, the beach at Half Moon Bay seemed relatively clean as it has for the last few beach cleans.
The issue of marine plastic is very much in the news at the moment and research by Thoughtworks reported in the Guardian that 62% of 2,000 people surveyed were concerned to reduce plastic packaging and use recyclable materials. The supermarket Waitrose has pledged to remove traditional plastic bags from loose fruit and vegetables from its stores by March 2019 and also the 5p bags by the same date. With public support for these initiatives growing, this is very welcome and it seems Iceland, Asda, Morrisons and the Co-op are all taking action too.
Right: Picking litter at Half Moon Bay. Photo Nicola Darbyshire.
The Marine Conservation Society has been running the annual beach cleaning events for the last 24 years and expects 2018 to beat all records with 7,391 volunteers registering at 432 coastal sites.
Last year 718 pieces of rubbish were collected per 100 metres of beach, much of the waste being plastics.
MCS has called on the government to introduce a charge on single use plastic items such as straws, cutlery and cups.
We look forward to the results of this year’s survey from MCS and thank everyone again for their efforts at Half Moon Bay. Please check our website for future beach deals dates and we hope to see you again!
On Saturday 14th April, Centurion Scouts Heysham, carried out a beach clean at Half Moon Bay, for the Marine Conservation Society. Kathy McAdam MCS, organised the beach clean with the support of Jo Alexander Scout Leader and Danni Groves Assistant Scout leader. 10 scouts took part and luckily it was a fine afternoon so everyone enjoyed being on the beach. The scouts collected approximately 5kg of litter-not a lot in terms of weight but this included at least 220 pieces of plastic. This probably saved several marine creatures from a very unhealthy diet.
All 10 scouts achieved their Conservation badge, so it was a very successful afternoon all round.
We had both good weather, and a good turn-out to our the beach clean at Half Moon Bay on Saturday, thanks to everyone who managed to join us! The December clean is that last of the year for us, and adds quantitative knowledge of the amounts, types and sources of litter on the British coastline. Data from the ‘Great British Beach Clean’ in September is now available; regrettably this saw the MCS record a national 10% rise in the amount of litter collected from 2016. Despite the increasing awareness of plastic waste, the numbers of plastic fragments also increased year on year. National MCS has a number of initiatives to try and reduce single-use plastic packaging, the principle source of plastic waste, to find out more, visit:
We have debated deposit and return for plastic bottles a couple of times in our public meetings, and I hope that many of you feel that charging a refundable deposit on all plastic bottles would be a good idea.
To get an idea of the scale of the problem; in 2007 approximately 13 billion plastic bottles of water were sold in the UK(1). It only takes a tiny number of people to toss their empty bottles aside, rather than recycling or even putting it in a bin for landfill, to make for an enormous mountain of rubbish that is going to litter streets, our parks and the countryside around us.
Some of the rubbish dropped on land will be collected, by council workers or volunteers, but most of the plastic that ends up in the sea is going to be there for the next couple of hundred years. Here it is slowly ground up until it is small enough to eat…
A deposit scheme would reward people for returning plastic bottles for collection and recycling, and should have a positive impact on the urban landscape, and reduce significantly the numbers of bottles we find on our beaches – in 2016 the Great British Beach Clean recovered an average of 12.5 plastic bottles from every 100m of beach cleaned(2).
Over the past few years there have been a number of campaigns to increase general awareness of plastic as a litter problem. Finally, plastic bottles at least look to be a problem that we can solve, as large companies like Coca-Cola have come around to supporting a deposit scheme(3). If these large corporations think it can be made to work, there is a chance that our government can be made to listen.
You can support the Surfers Against Sewage campaign by adding your name to their petition on 38 Degrees: