Smoking litter is big issue on Worthing beach, Great British Beach Clean 2019 survey reveals

Worthing beach has a big issue with smoking-related debris, the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean 2019 survey has revealed.

Worthing’s 10th annual beach litter survey, organised by eco-social scientist Dr Barbara Shaw, saw 50 keen volunteers sample a 753m stretch of beach on Saturday, September 21, in two areas, near Worthing Pier and from Splash Point Leisure Centre to The Esplanade.

Volunteers on Worthing seafront for the Great British Beach Clean, part of A Wonderful Week in Worthing. Photo by Derek Martin DM1992956a

Volunteers on Worthing seafront for the Great British Beach Clean, part of A Wonderful Week in Worthing. Photo by Derek Martin DM1992956a

All the rubbish collected was recorded for the MCS scientific survey and results will be reported by the society alongside others from across the country.

Dr Shaw said it was found there were big issues with smoking related debris.

She said: “We found cigarette stubs, hundreds containing nicotine that is toxic to marine life.

“Although classified as paper, most filters are made of cellulose acetate core and two layers of wrapping, which may be paper or rayon, so they persist.

“Smoking equipment found included a tobacco pouch, packs of plastic filters, cigarette lighters, e-cigarettes and a vaping refill.”

There was less angling litter in the Worthing Pier area than in previous years and Dr Shaw questioned whether this was due to there being many more beach cleans in the past year.

Nylon line was found, often in long tangled masses caught in swathes of seaweed.

Dr Shaw said: “The strings of plastic beads are non-biodegradable, an example of microplastic that is harmful when it enters the food chain.

“These are attached by line to lures, which are designed to attract fish and look like neon-coloured fish with mobile tails, often 10-15cm and made of flexible, non biodegradable plastic material.

“The lead weights don’t rust but are highly and persistently toxic. Steel hooks are stainless steel, which can be fatal if left in competition and other fish that have got away, precisely because it doesn’t degrade.

“Large weights with stainless steel hooks are a bathing hazard when embedded in sand by Worthing Pier.”

In an overview of the main findings, materials found included:

Plastic – many caps and lids; fast food trays and cutlery; sweets, crisps and sandwich wrappers; pieces of nylon fishing net; anglers’ line; quantities of small unsourced plastic pieces

Rubber – balloons, balls, hair bands

Cloth – items of clothing; towels

Paper – many receipts; salt and sugar wrappers; tissues; scores of cigarette stubs

Wood – small worked or treated pieces, unsourced

Metal – drinks cans; many beer bottle tops; many foil wrappers

Glass – many, mainly small, pieces

Hazardous and undesirable waste included:

Sanitary - sanitary towels and backing strips; wet wipes

Medical – pill packets; plasters

Dog faeces – only one this year, unbagged

Pollutants – no waxy paraffin or vegetable oil items recorded

Dr Shaw said: “This is not just any old beach clean but the Marine Conservation Society’s Great September Beach Clean, which is also the UK annual beach litter survey – a unique and wonderful example of citizen science that has been informing government on the state of our beaches, and helping develop policies, for 26 years.

“Following Blue Planet II and a new understanding of pollution from fossil fuel derived plastics, there has been a veritable tide of successful beach cleaning initiatives. This MCS scientific survey is unique in logging changes in type, amount and sources of litter, either dropped on the beach or arriving on incoming tides.

“The success of marine wildlife conservation and pollution limitation initiatives in Worthing is largely due Adur and Worthing councils’ parks and foreshore inspectors team.

“Thanks also to all of you wonderful people from near and farther afield for your persisting interest, enthusiasm and effort, for your care, concern and genuine hands-on support.”