Coast readers head to Margate for the 2015 Beach Clean. Editor Alex Fisher tells us what they found

The beach looks clean. It’s hardly Brighton on a Sunday morning, after the hordes of revellers have covered the beach in empty drink cans, bottles and cigarette butts. As our group of dedicated beach cleaners, made up of staff, readers, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the Joules team, head down to Walpole Bay, Margate, it appears as though there'll be nothing to pick up. The MCS have supplied us with gloves, litter-pickers, bin bags and a sharps box and we are keen to make a difference. So how many pieces of litter will we find on this beach 100-metre stretch of sand? There are 80 of us, we have an hour: take a guess.

Charlotte Coombes and Richard Harrington from MCS have already explained the problems caused by plastic in our oceans. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade; packaging used for a moment takes at least a hundred years to disappear, usually breaking into smaller and smaller pieces as it does. Those pieces may not be so clearly visible to the human eye as a complete drinks bottle, cup or yogurt pot, but they are visible to marine life, and often mistaken for food. Even tiny pieces of plastic are eaten by fish and it is becoming more common to find a stomach full of plastic when preparing fish for human consumption. This will eventually kill the fish, as it prevents them being able to absorb nutrients from their food. Most people are now aware that plastic bags are often mistaken for jellyfish by turtles. These are then ingested, and again, will eventually kill the animal.

With this information at the front of our minds we set to work. Toddlers, grandmas, families and friends begin to move the layers of seaweed and pick up every little piece of rubbish on the beach. We find a whole nappy, the back of a fridge, polystyrene cups and rusty nails. But how many pieces of plastic did we find in an hour on a 100-metre square stretch of beach? One thousand, seven hundred and twenty-three. 

Many thanks to our Beach Clean sponsors Joules

For more information on plastic pollution in our oceans click here

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For more Editor's blog posts click here

For more information on plastic pollution click here