Bodmin Life joined Turn the Tide's Andrew Frost on a litter pick at Polkerris beach on Tuesday, 7th June.
Andrew Frost, the founder of ‘Turn the Tide Cornwall’, and a former local to Bodmin, has recently been sponsored by local business owner Christopher Hallett, from County Mortgages, to continue his important work in the community. Andrew welcomed Bodmin Life to join him on a clean-up at Polkerris beach, his fourth clean-up of the day.
There to greet us was Susanne Bailey from Polkerris Beach Watersports and Shop, whose team does a litter pick at Polkerris every day. Susanne kindly provided gloves and a litter picker and expressed her support for Andrew and the work he is doing for our coastlines and green spaces.
Andrew and Susanne explained that Polkerris could be quite a hot spot for litter, especially after a south westerly wind, and both agreed that in the summer, as it is a beautiful and popular family beach, there is a dramatic increase in waste left by beach users rather than just waste that is brought in by the tide and wind.
In just over an hour a full black bin bag was full to the brim of rubbish with plenty of plastic still waiting to be picked up! It would be impossible to pick it all up in a day, a week, a month…despite at first glance, on this particular day, Polkerris appearing to be quite a clean beach.
So, what did we find?
Well, oodles of nurdles! But what are they?
Nurdles are very small balls of plastic that are used to make nearly all our larger plastic products around the world. They are also known as ‘pre-production pellets’. According to an article in The Guardian from 2021, ‘An astounding 230,000 tonnes of nurdles end up in oceans every year.’ In just small sections of sand and tide lines there were plenty of nurdles to spot on Polkerris.
There were also a number of cigarette butts, fragments of polystyrene, snapped pens, cable ties and waste from the fishing industry. Susanne was keen to show Bodmin Life one of her frequent finds which is tangled fishing wire/debris from fishing nets and rope as she came over holding a mix of seaweed with yellow and orange netting that were tightly entangled. Not only does this make it difficult to separate nature from plastic when trying to litter pick, it is very easy to see the damage it could cause and the danger it poses to wildlife.
There were forgotten beach toys, ‘plastic rock’ as Andrew likes to call it, which seemed like melted or degraded plastic which had a similar appearance to natural stone, if it wasn’t for its light weight, vaguely un-natural colouring and slightly 'off' texture.
There was a beach fire that was full of rusty nails, metal and half a molten drink can and if you looked up at the land that towered above the beach, where you could dream that the fierce coastal elements might batter the cliffs to reveal ancient arrow heads, instead there were retro wrappers and waste.
What difference can you make?
After sifting through tidelines of waste and thousands of nurdles it may seem like we have too many hurdles to overcome to clean up our mess! However, individuals like Andrew who are making a big impact, prove that getting out on a clean-up can certainly keep us mindful of the importance of reducing our plastic waste in our day-to-day lives!
It is also fun! There are plenty of treasures to be found washed up on the shore, such as old toys and vintage plastic items that could be the beginnings of an exciting collection. It is far better to be like the little mermaid and collect bizarre items that don’t belong in the sea and leave all natural treasures where they belong! Remember, if you take that pretty shell, that hermit crab might be forced to use a bottle top for their home instead!
Beach cleaning and litter picking can also make a big difference to your own life by benefiting your health while helping the environment. Andrew told Bodmin Life: "Beach cleaning probably saved my life."
He explained that he was struggling with his mental health and that getting out and ‘reconnecting with nature’ gave him a positive focus. He added: "It’s made me a better person, that’s for sure."
Happy World Ocean Day!
Remember to stay safe when beach cleaning. Keep an eye on the tide and it is advisable to wear gloves, as various sharp objects, such as the hooks attached to fishing gear, and other various unpleasant items can be found washed up in the tidelines!