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BHHC members fight the tide of marine litter at first 'beach clean'

By Alice Webb

Organiser Alice Tebb "overwhelmed" by response as over 40kg of debris is cleared

Brighton and Hove Hockey Club's first 'beach clean' brought plenty of new year resolution from members and their families on Sunday as they worked for two hours clearing rubbish from a stretch of Hove seafront by the King Alfred Leisure Centre.

More than 50 people turned out to pick up and clear a large amount of litter and debris from the beach, amply rewarding Alice Tebb's inspiration for the initiative and blowing away the cobwebs after the Christmas and New Year festivities.

Alice, a marine biologist and Agents for Change Coordinator with the Marine Conservation Society, was delighted with the response, describing it as "overwhelming". Over 40 kilograms of rubbish, ranging from plastic to fireworks to scrap metal, was removed and a 100m stretch of beach surveyed with data sent to the Marine Conservation Society for analysis.

Representatives from Brighton and Hove City Council provided equipment and a basic briefing for the BHHC team and The Better Half pub in nearby Hove Place rewarded the volunteers with the offer of a discount on drinks afterwards.

Cleaning up - the final score

  • In total, the BHHC team picked up 43.6kg of rubbish. That is equivalent in weight to 270 hockey balls or a quarter of a heart of a blue whale.
  • The club donated about 70 hours of time to cleaning the beach.
  • The survey of 100m of beach involved 15 people who between them, over one and a half hours, collected 840 pieces of rubbish. The data was sent to the Marine Conservation Society and the club is waiting for feedback from them.
  • Most of the items of rubbish collected appeared to be from fireworks, packets, wrappers, scrap metal, mess from beach fires and small plastic pieces.

Alice, who plays in defence for BHHC's women's 4s, explained why cleaning the beach is so vital and why local communities should all lend a helping hand.

"What we are doing today is really important because we take so much from the sea," she said. "We love to eat seafood and we derive such wellbeing and joy from the sea that it’s just great to give back and take out the rubbish.”

“From the beach clean that the wonderful Brighton and Hove Hockey Club are doing today I hope that we will be able to take some litter off our area of the beach. We need to think more about the sea as being ours and sort of take more ownership of what is happening in it and to it. Our Brighton and Hove Hockey Club symbol is Dennis the Dolphin. We are a real seaside community and so we can really do our bit.

“It’s important to do a beach clean because there’s an awful lot of marine litter in the sea and we need to take it out. Because marine litter is actually a relatively new sort of field to science we are still learning an awful lot about the effects of plastic. But some of the things we have found are things like microplastics, so when plastic breaks down into really, really tiny pieces they’ve found that plankton actually ingest it or eat it. And then the plankton is eaten by small fish, eaten by the bigger fish and so on. And as microplastics become part of the food chain we are actually finding microplastics, for example, in the blood of marine creatures.

“Also larger pieces of plastic so bigger animals that eat larger pieces of plastic, it sits in their stomachs because they can’t digest it. So what happens is the animal thinks that it is full; say something like a sea turtle eating a plastic bag or a guillemot, a kind of seabird, eating a plastic bottle cap. They have got all this material in their stomachs so think that they are full but they are not getting any nutrients from that food so they don’t eat so actually they start to starve.

“Something we are also learning a bit more about now is actually the chemicals that plastic gives off; when it breaks down in the stomachs of these animals it is actually affecting their hormones. For example, in Blue Planet 2, they did a sequence on a whale mother who had her calf with her but she couldn’t feed the calf because the plastics that she’d eaten had given off chemicals that had changed her hormones and meant that she wasn’t producing milk for her calf. There are some pretty scary things that are happening that we are just finding out about now.

“I don’t want to put down plastic. It’s an amazing product when we think about technical sports gear, when we think about hygiene and health and safety kit. Plastic is amazing but it’s just unfortunate the way we are using it now is just really, really unsustainable and really not good."

Alice was delighted with the response from BHHC members and would be happy to organise further events.

“I can’t believe the popularity today – it’s absolutely overwhelming - and I’d love to organise some more in the future. There’s a lady called … I think it’s Atlanta; she does the Dean beach clean and they do silent disco ones. So perhaps in the summer we could organise a silent disco beach clean with her for the hockey club. They get a DJ down there and everything."

To find out more about the work of the Marine Conservation Society, visit www.mcsuk.org and follow @mcsuk on Twitter .

Updated 21:16 - 20 Mar 2019 by Atul Patel

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