Plastic pollution via Facebook

Its been a bad week for Facebook and like many others I have been contemplating how I use it. I realise that what I get from it the most at the moment are the posts from the pages I ‘like’ rather than individual friends. Currently there are many many posts, films and photos about plastic pollution, it seems the more we become aware of it the worse it is getting, or maybe our global awareness has become part of that growth. Today there was a update about coffee pods…

but if you really want to find out how to recycle them here’s a link 

Today is five years since Rame Peninsula Beach Care , a small community organisation started with their first beach clean. On Facebook they have itemised everything they have done since then and its quite something when they work out all they have achieved in five years. The Rame Peninsula is the area in Cornwall that takes in Kingsand, Cawsand and Whitsand Bay, where we live, so I wanted to share the post with you.

Check the page out

This is what they have done…

1) Beach cleans
We have removed a total of 2,516 sacks of marine litter over the course of 91 organised beach cleans, involving a total of 3,481 volunteer hours. To put this into a financial context, if this work – all done for free by our wonderful volunteers – had been charged at the minimum wage, this would work out at a cost of £27,256.

2) Marine litter surveys
Our survey site at Polhawn is one of 19 sites around the UK being used to track the evolution of marine debris over a three-year period, providing baseline data to help drive future policy on this issue.
So far we have conducted 10 out of the total 12 surveys, and have counted and categorised a total of 57,078 pieces of plastic from just a 100m stretch of beach! Of these, more than half the pieces (29,674) have been unrecognisable broken fragments of various sizes, 9,610 pieces of fishing-related debris and 6,695 pieces of various kinds of disposable consumer litter such as bottles, takeaway packaging, etc.
More unusual finds have included a WWII anti-aircraft fuse, a credit card with 1993 expiry date and many pieces of Lego from the famous 1997 container ship spill off Land’s End.

3) Marine wildlife stranding recordings and rescues
We rescued dozens of live guillemots and razorbills (and recorded scores more corpses) during the devastating PIB spill in April 2013, which killed over 4,000 seabirds in the worst marine life disaster in Cornwall since the Torrey Canyon.
Our volunteer recorders have also recorded scores of dead dolphins, porpoises and seals along our coastline, contributing crucial information about the threats facing marine mammals locally, which we hope can be used to help drive better policy to protect them. We have also helped to rescue several live seal pups, which went on to be rehabilitated and released, and helped with getting a number of specimens down to the University of Exeter for autopsy – including of course the world-famous giant bluefin tuna that washed up in Kingsand.

4) Bottle top chain

We coordinated the creation of the great Cornish bottle top chain, working with other beach cleaners in Cornwall and further afield to collect 65,000 bottle tops from our beaches over just three months. The chain was mostly strung together by the incredible Dave Smethurst (RIP) into a chain that stretched 1.1km long and was launched one crazy day at Tregonhawke beach. The chain has since been an incredible tool in campaigning and public awareness-raising – used both by us and loaned out to many other organisations, as well as being viewed by Prince Charles and used at the European Parliament at Strasbourg to lobby MEPs deciding on the EU’s future plastics strategy.

5) Microplastics machine
Genius RPBC member Rob Arnold invented a microplastics separation machine that we’ve been able to use at Tregantle (one of the worst beaches in the south west for accumulating harmful microplastics – industrial pellets and pieces of plastics broken down to less than 5mm across). In general, microplastics are almost impossible to remove from the beach, but using Rob’s machine (and an awful lot of elbow grease with armies of volunteers brushing the beach) we’ve been able to remove around 10 million pellets (nurdles) and hundreds of thousands of microplastic fragments just from the small area at the entrance to the beach.

6) Plastic bottle boat
We have done lots of talks, beach cleans and workshops with local schools, but the most exciting initiative saw us working with local boatbuilder Andy Fox and the children from Fourlanesend school to build ‘Respect’, a boat made from hundreds of waste plastic bottles collected by the pupils, who then got to sail their creation around Cawsand Bay. The boat was later displayed for several months at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth.

7) Artwork
Our amazingly talented local artists have used lots of the unrecyclable marine debris collected from our beaches to make some incredible, thought-provoking and awareness-raising pieces of art to help to reach a wider audience with the message about how plastics are affecting the oceans.
These artworks have been on display at venues such as the National Marine Aquarium, University of Exeter, the Telegraph Outdoor show in London, the Royal Geographical Society, Port Eliot Festival and the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. We held a marine plastic art show ‘All Washed Up’ in Kingsand in 2013 and are planning another one for the summer of 2018.
Fourteen local artists also used waste we’d collected to make trophies for 2016 Blue Marine Ocean Awards, held at an exclusive Mayfair club. The awards were presented to winners including Pharrell Williams, Selfridges and Oliver Letwin MP.

8) Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition
Rame Peninsula Beach Care is a founder member and co-coordinator of the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition, a network that now brings together over 40 conservation and beach cleaning groups and marine science experts representing the interests of tens of thousands of people in Cornwall and beyond to campaign together on a range of plastic-related issues.

9) Biobeads
Since discovering that more than 50% of the industrial pellets on our beaches appear to be biobeads (a special type of pellet used in some wastewater treatment plants to filter sewage), we produced a report on this issue (on behalf of the CPPC), which has been used to inform the wastewater industry and NGOs working on the issue of microplastic losses, the Environment Agency (who are investigating), and to put pressure on South West Water, which is now putting in place a range of measures to try to further investigate and mitigate this problem. The report has also been presented at the European Commission in Brussels to stakeholders working on developing the EU’s microplastics strategy.

10) Ocean Plastic conference
Back in 2014 we organised an Ocean Plastic Conference at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth. This packed-out event brought together leading scientists, campaigners and industry representatives from Cornwall and beyond.

11) Austrian volunteers
We have hosted three groups of Austrian volunteers, for a month each time. Our visitors from this land-locked central European country have helped us with beach cleans, learned lessons about plastic pollution to take back home, and worked with artist Liz Franklin to make fantastic marine debris artworks such as the ‘Plenty more fish….?’ mural, which has now become quite a village landmark, displayed on the side of the Manse on Garrett Street.

12) Films
We have worked with local filmmaker Bryony Stokes to bring the message about ocean plastic to a much wider audience by making several short films about our work – including The Big Pick (charting a project with the University of Exeter in which we removed 576,664 pieces of plastic from just one small cove at Tregantle in one day – which we then spent three weeks counting and sorting) and most recently Leave it All Behind – a short ‘how-to’ film following us as we staged our mass plastic packaging unwrap at Morrisons in Liskeard to protest against unnecessary plastics.

I think what they have done is just amazing and I hope that their enthusiasm and passion for plastic pollution will spread beyond the county.

The images above are some of the plastics that Rob Arnolds Plastics machine has caught including the lego flippers from the 1997 container spill. His facebook page documents this machine [no5 above] and you can read more about it and see more separated plastics here 



About Ruth

I am an actor and theatre maker, I moved down to the SW of England 19 years ago with my partner and son. Five years ago we bought a chalet on the Rame Peninsula and are fully embracing life of the cliff.
This entry was posted in home, plastic pollution, Whitsand bay and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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