Litter pickers battle scourge of plastic toys dumped on beaches

Litter pickers battle scourge of plastic toys dumped on beaches as they plead with Britons to ‘leave only footprints’

  • Volunteers say the cheap toys are being seen as one-use items to be left behind
  • Team collect the items with other litter to prevent them from entering the ocean
  • Buckets, spades and other toys made of PVC, a type of plastic difficult to recycle 

Clean-up volunteers show throwaway plastic toys they have gathered on a beach as they combat the menace of seaside litter.

The items, including buckets and spades and frisbees, were dumped by families after their children played on the sand and in the water.

Volunteers say the cheap toys are increasingly being seen as one-use items to be left behind rather than taken home and saved for another day.

The team collect them along with other litter to prevent them from entering the ocean and harming marine life.

Toy story: Spades, frisbees and moulds lined up on St Annes beach near Blackpool. Volunteers say the cheap toys are increasingly being seen as one-use items to be left behind

The drive to clean up St Annes on the Fylde coast near Blackpool comes as the Great British September Clean is gearing up to take place in two weeks.

The Keep Britain Tidy campaign, supported by the Daily Mail, will see huge numbers of volunteers around the country battle the scourge of litter.

The St Annes team have so far collected 133 plastic toys dumped on the beach. The toys have been cleaned and donated to charity rather than sent to landfill.

Emily Parr, local beach care officer for Keep Britain Tidy, said: ‘Unfortunately for the environment, a set of plastic beach toys can be picked up very cheaply at a £1 store. 

‘Many families now seem to view taking the toys home as an inconvenience, instead choosing to leave them behind. Our concern is that people are viewing them as a disposable, single-use item rather than something that should be saved for future beach visits.’

Buckets, spades and other toys are made of PVC, a type of plastic which is difficult to recycle and could take up over 450 years to break down in landfill.

Litter teams in St Annes are organised as part of a campaign in the North West called Love My Beach which encourages visitors to ‘leave only footprints’. Meanwhile, campaigners in Devon have told how plastic bodyboards are being increasingly dumped. They are used by families to teach children how to surf. 

Neil Hembrow, of Keep Britain Tidy, said: ‘They are typically on sale for £10 but end up reduced to £5 at the end of the summer and often break up while being used. We estimate over 14,000 are dumped each summer. They are transported thousands of miles from where they are manufactured to end up as waste on South West beaches. 

Cushions: Sarah Pithouse amid a bodyboard haul at Croyde in Devon. The Keep Britain Tidy campaign will see huge numbers of volunteers around the country battle the scourge of litter

‘On average in August we collect 200 boards from each beach we survey. We recycle the boards each year. At Croyde in north Devon we have collected 330 so far. We expect to collect another 100 over the bank holiday weekend.’

Mr Hembrow said that Keep Britain Tidy is working with manufacturers of bodyboards to make them more durable so they are less likely to break up and be abandoned. Other efforts include promoting hiring schemes to avoid the need to purchase.

He said ‘innovative’ recycling options have included using the boards as under-floor cushioning, insulation for workshops and even as the frame for a beehive. Cushion maker Sarah Pithouse has used covers from boards dumped at Croyde Bay – part of an area of outstanding natural beauty – to decorate her creations.

Richard McIlwain, deputy chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: ‘As a result of Covid-19, more people than ever have been using our beaches over summer.

‘While many respect this precious environment, a significant minority seem to think it’s OK to leave their plastic junk behind.’

The Great British September Clean will run from September 11 to 27 and we’re encouraging everyone to get involved – in small groups or by yourself. For more information, or to pledge to take part, visit here.

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