THE recent socially distanced Big Channel Islands Beach Clean saw 367 volunteers across Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Sark brave the wintry weather in an effort to keep beaches rubbish-free and ensure a safer place not only for themselves and others but for animals and plant life.
Helen Quin, community engagement lead at The Clean Earth Trust, who organised the Guernsey event, praised the volunteers who ‘had done amazingly well’.
‘We were wonderfully overwhelmed by the number of entries we received over the weekend and into the following week,’ she said.
‘A beautiful example of #GuernseyTogether during these unusual times, and while the amount of waste was devastating to look at, it was a joy to sit and read and share everyone’s experiences.
'The weekend has encouraged some new recruits to the island’s established team of beachcombers and Womblers and is an important reminder that we can all do our bit daily, by grabbing what we see out and about – each piece helps and could inspire others to do the same.
‘There are ultimately two main groups of waste found on the beach; that which washes up from foreign sources and that which we as a community contribute – residential waste.
'While tracking and tracing the sources of international waste is more challenging, including that which is from fishing practices, we can make immediate change to our residential waste landscape.
'Ultimately, taking responsibility for our own impact and the by-waste of our consumption habits – choosing to pick up instead of ignore litter, refusing single-use, shopping plastic- and packaging-free, following the right practices for disposal, stop using our drainage system to dispose of small items, sanitary products and cigarette butts.
‘Once we are out of lockdown we will restart our weekly public beach surveys, moving around the island to sample all the bays and build a picture of Guernsey’s, and the wider Bailiwick’s, ocean pollution.
'We are also inviting businesses to organise a team beach clean as part of their CSR or team building programmes to help support our operations.
'If people want to send in their data when out doing their own beach cleans, we would welcome the continuation of submissions – a simple list, with the number of each item, location, date, weight, number of volunteers and time spent beach cleaning.
'We are logging data so we can start to monitor and measure the problem year on year, determine the main sources and use the insight to inform and influence change.’
Those wanting to get involved can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beach Clean in numbers
In Guernsey a total of 190 volunteers took part in 92 individual beach cleans and collected more than 440kg of ocean debris.
In Alderney, 25 volunteers gathered 124kg across 15 individual beach cleans.
In Jersey, 137 volunteers took part across 42 beach cleans, removing over 192kg from the environment.
Sark had 15 volunteers who gathered 22kg of waste.
Common finds included: fishing nets, fishing lines, broken plastic fragments, polystyrene, plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers and cigarette butts.
Unusual finds: Lego, Play-Doh lid, vintage glass bottles, toilet seat, shoes, toothbrushes, a bike.
Lots of people across the islands got involved in the Beach Clean. Here are a few of their comments:
‘We love beach cleaning – it’s truly crazy what we collect [and] I would encourage everyone to try it even for five minutes – sometimes you get rewarded. We have found a silver spoon, old marbles and bottles and Smartie lids. We have recently found a piece of Lego for which we have been on the hunt for years.’
‘I am a local 51-year-old who has been beach cleaning for six years. I’m part of the Found on the Beach in Guernsey, which was set up by Sam Reoch, and since joining have found it to be a very positive experience.’
‘Although it’s alarming seeing the amount of rubbish on the beaches I visited, it was amazing to see so many other people there doing the same with so much of the island using their allocated exercise time for a cause a bit more selfless, even in that wind.’
Courtney Huisman, from Littlefeet Environmental, Jersey
‘Every beach in Jersey saw islanders taking part in the annual Big Channel Islands Beach Clean – it was an amazing turnout and Littlefeet would like to thank the local community for their continued efforts and participation in reducing the effects of marine debris.’
‘I had fun taking part in the Big CI Beach Clean. It was really encouraging seeing so many people post on social media about participating. Beach cleaning is a great way to add some outdoor activity to your life and it helps to keep our environment clear of rubbish.’
‘I think this initiative brought some light to the fact that we have an increase in pollution of plastic coming from land, boats, fishing boats – that we are all responsible and it is a good way to witness our impact on the planet. I never paid such close-up attention to how much plastic pollution comes to our shore in the winter. It is an inner call that if we do not act now our ocean, all the beings, well the whole planet will suffer, and consequently the ecosystem will be endangered for future generations.
‘It was good to see people joining forces, all ages coming along and getting involved, it gives me hope.’
‘This was our first organised beach clean, we usually pick up litter here and there. We found a lot of plastic bottles and caps and some more unusual finds such as an entire plastic crate strewn across the beach, a plastic turtle shell and an enter key from a keyboard. I’d definitely recommend beach cleaning – it’s like a treasure hunt.’
Lorna West, outreach officer, Alderney Wildlife Trust
‘This year was a great success with a huge increase in participants from 2020 and more than doubling the amount of waste collected. Our communities really came together, despite being physically apart, and achieved something amazing; a safer environment for wildlife.’
Shakira Christodoulou, La Societe Sercquaise
‘Sark fought back against lockdown to give nine beaches a thorough spring clean – more than we’ve ever achieved before for the Big Beach Clean, even if the traditional tea and cake finish together was lacking. I’d like to thank everyone from La Societe Sercquaise, Sark Community Blooms, and Sark’s home-schoolers who joined in.’
Matt Gill, The Ghost Seas Project
‘The amount of fishing line and fishing net waste snagged in seawed is a massive concern, especially for marine life. Often sandy beaches look deceptively unaffected but amongst the seaweed and rocky areas where most people don’t go there’s enormous amounts of waste which gets re-submerged and redistributed every tide. It was great to see so many people get involved and show they care.’
Amelie Le Prevost
‘The beach clean was great fun and was definitely a great way to encourage my family and I to get outside and do some good for ourselves and the environment. I would strongly recommend it to everyone regardless of if you are passionate about the environment or not.’