When it comes to our beach, its about taking responsibility for what we do

A beach clean pick up point in Sidmouth

A beach clean pick up point in Sidmouth - Credit: Denise Bickley

Denise Bickley, chair of the Sidmouth Plastic Warriors and Surfers Against Sewage representative, writes for the Herald.

Denise Bickley, chair of the Sidmouth Plastic Warriors

Denise Bickley, chair of the Sidmouth Plastic Warriors - Credit: Denise Bickley

I became a councillor in 2019 to get a louder voice for those who care about their environment, the planet, the sea and all the animals we are protectors of.

It’s been a frustrating few years because I seem to be constantly battling with others who may not share my passion, but I keep going as I get told that my voice is being heard…even if it feels like turning around a huge tanker in the ocean, on stormy seas.

It has been impossible to do organised beach cleans over the last year for obvious reasons but the warriors will be back soon.

We have been doing individual clean ups, and I have leant out around 60 litter pickers for Warriors to do their own rounds.

I personally have been doing the beach and Manor car park with my son who was doing the volunteering section of his DofE Award.

Bags full of rubbish found on the beach

Bags full of rubbish found on the beach - Credit: Denise Bickley

It was interesting seeing his anger as he picked up litter that had not been there the week before.

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Picking up a bottle with two dead mice in it is something that had a deep effect on him, and was a very visual reminder of the damage litter can do.

I set up the Plastic Warriors to help combat the scourge of marine plastic, and timed it just right because Blue Planet 2 was on just after we started, but what I don’t understand is so many people who watched the awful issue of marine plastic, but don’t get that 80 per cent of it comes from the land – from dropping, discarding, accidentally littering by putting a bottle on a wall, as well as deliberately chucking rubbish on the floor.

One windy day and the discarded rubbish is in the drain, gutter or stream, and therefore heading for the sea. We could all do so much more.

I remember seeing some young people on the beach eating chips from Styrofoam cups (*see below) and getting up, leaving them all behind.

When I asked them to take them with them, one of the girls screwed her nose up and picked her cone up as if it was disgusting.

She had literally just eaten the chips. That to me sums up an attitude that is quite common – that even the waste we generate is something to discard ASAP, with little thought as to how.

There is no 'away' when we throw something away – we simply need to be responsible for it and pass it on sensibly.

What could we do in Sidmouth to help? I’ve got loads of easy things we could change instantly, with just a few tweaks:

  • Publicising an event, publicising planning applications, or fixing padding to scaffolding? Don’t use cable ties because when you snip them, inevitably some fall on the floor. We have picked up hundreds of these from our beach. Why not use some natural string that won’t have such an impact if it goes in the sea?
  • Cigarette butts contain plastic and toxins. One butt can pollute 7 litres of water. Please use a bin (we’ve put up two bright yellow bins, one on the seafront and one in Market Place and both have hardly been used)
  • Cafes and takeaways – please think about your containers. Styrofoam burger boxes or coffee cups are some of the worst types of plastic. For sauces, why not have large dispensers and small paper pots, or better still put the sauce on before the customer leaves? We find the sachets and the little bits that come off them everywhere.
  • Buying something for the beach like a bucket and spade or some beach shoes? Please remove the tags before you hit the sand, and don’t get me started on polystyrene body boards.

Right, I had better stop – I could go on for weeks with more simple tips. The main message is let’s all do better and look after our town, coast and sea. Thanks all. http://sidmouthplasticwarriors.org/

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