We’ve been out this weekend taking part in beachwatch, the Marine Conservation Society‘s annual beach clean and litter survey. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, even for fully paid up a litter-hater like myself. Today, in less than two hours, on just our small portion of the beach, the other half and I picked up more than 65 little plastic sticks that had originally been cotton wool buds. As people don’t generally take these to the beach with them, it means they’ve come out of the sewers. Mmmmm, lovely. Add in broken glass, bottle caps, dog poo, an (un)’sanitary item’, cigarette butts, chocolate bar wrappers and dozens of drinking straws and you can see why, when it comes to my next beach holiday, I think I’ll opt for a nice walk in the hills.
Sadly, there’s another effect to doing a beach clean, other than simply adding to the warm glow of smugness that surrounds me and which is now in danger of being visible from space. Yesterday, we went for a short walk along our road, down to the post box and the cottage-that-sells-eggs. Suddenly tuned in to the stuff, I could see nothing but litter: discarded bottles, cans, wrappers, ciggies, bottle lids, you name it. I even caught myself thinking I should take a bag and pick up some of the worst of it as we went, just to make myself feel better. Girls, take it from me, you can’t fight it. Eventually you will turn into your own mother*.
And the other thing that struck me (other than the fact that it’s a really really bad idea to flush your cotton buds down the loo) is how willing the holidaying Brit is to sit and watch other people work. By the end of our two hours, we had a fascinated audience of middle-aged couples, sitting comfortably on the benches of the front, enjoying the show. Some of them had even brought sandwiches. Some of them – undoubtedly – dropped the wrappers on the beach afterwards. But if they did, they did at least wait until after we had gone. And for that, if nothing else, we should be grateful.
*Which is not necessarily a bad thing, of course