To find out just what gets washed up on our beaches over the summer, apart from shells and seaweed, I joined in with a beach clean that happened in Wembury, Plymouth as part of the OPAL BioBlitz.
The rubbish we collected was taken back to the Museum (and washed thoroughly!) for last Sundays Nature Live event with Tim Ferrero, a scientist in the Zoology department. This event was part of an EU funded project called 4SEAS.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of rubbish washed up came was plastic, which can affect wildlife in many different ways. The larger pieces of rope and fishing line can entangle larger animals like fish, cetaceans and birds. The smaller pieces can be mis-identified as food, causing poisoning or simply blocking up the animals digestive systems. Even when broken down so much that they are no longer visible to the naked eye, the microscopic pieces can turn up in tiny organisms such as shrimp.
What was a little more surprising though was just how much rubbish had clearly come from picnics by the sea. From lots of bottle lids, to crisp packets, to an entire 'disposable' barbecue, a significant amount of rubbish originates from, well, us! As Tim said, we are clearly very messy eaters.
So what can we do? Well, the best advice when you visit the seaside is to take all your rubbish home with you! Then, at home, try to recycle your waste and dispose of it properly – we found lots of cotton bud sticks on the beach that had been flushed down toilets and ended up in the sea!
And finally, if you want to get directly involved, join in with a beach clean, and that way you can make sure the beaches are not only nice and clean for visitors, but also for the wildlife that calls them home.