Last week I took part in the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean where I joined over forty volunteers in helping to clean up litter at Porthtowan Beach. It wasn’t just about picking up litter however, as we also recorded our findings to help the MCS identify the main sources of litter on our coastlines and raise awareness about the threat it poses to the marine environment.
This was the second year in which I have taken part in the Beach Clean, which occurs at over a hundred beaches all across the country. So far over 6 tonnes of litter has been removed with the most common items found including fishing ropes, bottle tops and various pieces of plastic, the latter of which often takes hundreds of years to break down. Over the last twenty years the MCS has noticed a steady increase in the amount of litter being left at beaches and while this ruins them for visitors we must also recognise the terrible impact that litter has on marine wildlife, with animals often becoming entangled in netting or eating discarded pieces of plastic.
I have also had a lot of correspondence recently about the ongoing problems of sewage releases made by South West Water. Our old Victorian sewer system means that in most places water from drains off the streets is not separated from the sewage system meaning, that when you have heavy rain, the system is overwhelmed. Without the discharges, sewage would back up into people’s homes.
We should also note that some of the apparently dramatic photos are misleading. Raw sewage is not brown but grey. The brown water pictured is simply the minerals from the red river. However we clearly need a better solution in the long term. Water companies account for over a third of pollution in our rivers and we need to see improvement. I would like SWW to consider prioritising new investment in West Cornwall to increase its holding capacity so that the number of these sewage releases can be significantly reduced or stopped altogether.