Beach cleans are working… Science

Got to be honest, I was more “I’m coming through you door” than a “I’ll clean up” type of Yoof when it came to sewage and plastic pollution, but a new study has proven picking up beach plastics reduced micro plastic on shore and in coastal water by 99%.

Sky News reported experts from Norce, one of Norway’s largest research organisations, had proven “beach cleans rapidly and dramatically reduce plastic fragments released into the environment, according to the first scientific evidence of its kind.

“Within a year of volunteers removing bottles, bags and other large pieces of plastic from the shore of an island near Bergen, the amount of microplastic on land and in the water fell by 99.5%.

“The scientists believe high levels of UV in sunlight and warm temperatures in shallow water lead to a far more rapid degradation of plastic fragments than had previously been thought possible.

“They say it should motivate a global effort to clean up coasts around the world.

Gunhild Bodtker, senior researcher at Norce, told Sky News: “I was happily surprised because it means the clean-up has efficiently reduced the leakage of microplastic into the sea. And that is really good news.

“Clean up plastic on the shores, clean up all the plastic in the environment. It really makes a difference.”

The bay “acts as a giant funnel, collecting marine plastic swept by ocean currents from as far away as the UK, France and the Netherlands.’

“We found stretches of what the Norce scientists call “plastic soil” – a layer, up to 1m deep, of densely-packed fragments mixed with organic matter.

“The microplastic pieces, which are less than 5mm in size, are likely to have been accumulating in the fjord for the last 50 years. They’re virtually impossible to remove.

“Torgeir Naess, the mayor of Kvam municipality, was part of the year-long clean-up.

“When I used to come here as a little kid in the mid-1970s it was just a few ping pong balls and some bottles,” he said. “You can see now it has increased dramatically.”

“But the new research strongly suggests that all is not lost. As long as large pieces of plastic are regularly removed, the fragments should begin to disappear.

“Plastic waste in deep, cold water could still take centuries to degrade.

“Some of the submerged plastic is ‘ghost gear’ – lost fishing nets and pots that continue to trap and kill marine life.

“The ghost fishing continues to harvest and it’s of no use to anyone,” she said. “It’s also an animal welfare issue – as well as plastic.”

More than 9,000 tonnes of plastic have been cleaned from Norway’s coast since the death of a whale in Bergen six years ago, its stomach stuffed with bags.

“At the same time plastic will come back, but we will keep [levels] down and clean year by year.

So a quick Two Minute Beach Clean down your local, or even just picking up some one walk back up the beach after a surf really does work!