Woman spends an entire year cleaning plastic off 52 beaches in Cornwall

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Grandmother and anti-plastics campaigner Pat Smith during one of her 52 beach cleans in 2018.

A grandmother has spent an entire year cleaning all plastic off 52 British beaches after making a New Year’s resolution to clean one sandy bay each week.

Pat Smith, 70, spent all of 2018 on Devon and Cornwall’s iconic beaches each week – armed with bin bags, rubber gloves and a litter picker.

She travelled without fail from one end of the South West to the other, collecting litter in beauty spots from Coverack, Cornwall, to Blackpool Sands, Devon.

Wayne Dixon and Pat Smith.

Married mother-of-two Pat has no intention of stopping – saying that the beaches need her.

Pat, founder of the environmental campaign group Final Straw Cornwall, said: “Doing 52 beach cleans in 2018 was my New Year’s Resolution and it’s finally done.

“I won’t stop as our beaches need me.

“A lot of the rubbish I have picked up consists of everyday items. These things are used by all of us and it is shocking to find them polluting our beautiful beaches.

“Please let’s try to be more thoughtful in this coming year.

“I’m driven to try and protect our living planet for my children and grandchildren and I will continue to do everything in my power to achieve that.”

Just some of the plastic rubbish collected during Pat Smith beach cleans in 2018.

Pat said she was urged to take action after noticing the effects of plastic pollution, and she reflected back on her life.

She said: “I grew up in the generation where plastic use was at it’s worse. I lived through that, yet I lived the life campaigners are pushing for now.

“Even though it was everywhere, we had no plastic at home – we would walk to the shops or get the bus to get groceries.”

Pat said that she was often joined by other volunteers who were determined to keep our beaches clean.

Just some of the plastic rubbish collected during Pat Smith beach cleans in 2018.
Just some of the plastic rubbish collected during Pat Smith beach cleans in 2018.

But she said not everyone understood, and on some occasions, she would be mistaken for doing community service.

She said: “People don’t understand I’ve been doing this voluntarily.

“We should all take responsibility for picking up the litter, as well as ensuring we don’t drop litter in the first place.”

Along the way, Pat, who also runs a bed and breakfast in St Austell, Cornwall, joined with other campaigners.

She spent time with Martin Dorey, founder of the 2 Minute Beach Clean, and Wayne Dixon, who is walking the UK coast as an ambassador for Keep Britain Tidy.

A comprehensive list of the beaches Pat cleaned, and highlights of her experiences, is below.

Number one, Fistral.

Pat said: “I spent the afternoon picking up plastic on Fistral beach, having read social media posts depicting the massive plastic dump following Storm Eleanor.

“It was truly dreadful.

“In two hours I collected two black bags full of tiny fragments of plastic detritus which the ocean had spat back at us.

“Our beaches need all of us out there doing our bit.

“Some lovely people stopped to help but if only one per cent had bothered to pick up a handful each, the beach would be clean in no time.

“I really believe that once people become aware that it is their plastic rubbish littering the beach and get stuck in, they would be more careful about avoiding disposable plastic products in the first place.

“Time for a change of attitude people unless you want to watch beautiful beaches drown in plastic and go swimming in the stuff!

“I have decided to do a beach clean per week for my New Year’s Resolution. 52 in 2018. one down, 51 left.”

Number Two, Mawgan Porth.

Number Four, Maenporth.

Number Five, Porthpean

Number Six, Coverack.

Pat said: “A fantastic way to mark international straw free day cleaning Coverack beach with the inspirational Wayne Dixon, Koda and Viki of Dog Friendly Cornwall.”

Number Seven, Fistral.

Number Nine, Crinnis and Charlestown.

Pat said: “I was amazed to find collections of dog poo bags obviously thrown into the hedges by dog walkers on their regular daily walks, even though there were bins close by.

“Other accumulations were found near benches – all down to debris dropped by lazy people who don’t know or care about the damage it causes to wildlife.”

Numbers 10 and 11, Pentewan.

Number 12, Par Beach.

Number 13, Portreath – with my grandchildren.

Pat said: “The beach was remarkably clean, scoured by the tide each day and regularly checked by a group of local beach cleaners.

“I met two in the hour I was there, both proud and enthusiastic beach guardians. We collected some styrofoam, macroplastics, a few bits of net and a broken beach bucket.

“My smallest haul of any beach clean so far.”

Number 15, Harlyn Bay.

Number 16, Pentewan.

Number 17, Spit Beach.

Number 18, Crantock.

Number 19, local litter pics.

Number 20, Porthtowan.

Pat said: “My 20th beach clean with Surfers Against Sewage, Plastic Free Porthtowan and the lovely Nicky Willows in glorious sunshine.

“It was part of the celebration of Porthtowan continuing to hold the Blue Flag award for achieving high water quality and environmental standards.

“The beach clean attracted a lot of volunteers and it was great to see plenty of children scouring the beach looking for debris to collect.”

Numbers 21 and 22, Polkerris and Readymoney Cove.

Number 23, St Anthony in Meneage.

Number 26, Charlestown.

Number 27, roads near Bosinver Farm Cottages.

Number 28, Par Beach

Numbers 29 and 30, Croyde and Widemouth Bay.

Number 32, Pentewan.

Number 33, Porthpean

Grandmother and anti-plastics campaigner Pat Smith during one of her 52 beach cleans in 2018.

Pat said: “I found a nasty fishing line with weights, feathers and two hooks still attached, a death trap for marine life.”

Number 43, Charlestown.

Number 44, Carne Beach

Number 45, Charlestown.

Number 46, Pentewan.

Pat said: “Today there were pieces of plastic all along the beach, mostly lumps of polystyrene and microplastics.

“At the far end of the beach just before the little cove of Portgiskey was a massive wall of sand and seaweed thrown up by recent storms and I had a fine time pulling out lengths of plastic rope.

“Goodness knows why the rope had all ended up here and why fishermen cut off such lengths and throw it overboard.

“At least 50 per cent of the plastic debris I collect originates from the fishing industry and I think it is high time that there was an incentive for fishermen to recycle their plastic.”

Number 47, Watergate Bay.

Number 48, Charlestown Beach.

Number 49, Charlestown.

Pat said: “Almost there! Did a quick beach clean on my home patch at Charlestown today for my 49th this year.”

Number 50, Christmas day – Trevone beach.

She said: “I took off to the rocky beach just west of Trevone and scrambled down to a seaweed-laden cove where I found several pieces of plastic bottles and items of fishing gear.

“I found what looked like a drive belt from a car but Rob told me that it was a piece of tyre rubber that fishermen use to wrap around the edges of lobster pots to stop them getting damaged.”

Grandmother and anti-plastics campaigner Pat Smith during one of her 52 beach cleans in 2018.

Number 51, Pentewan with my grandchildren.

Number 52, Charlestown, Porthpean, and Duporth.

Pat said: “All three beaches looked clean enough but heavy swells had brought in piles of seaweed which again was littered with pieces of plastic.

“Today I am going to give you a tally of what I collected.

“I did not take a litter picker, just a glove so work out how many times I bent over. I can recommend this beach cleaning job for keeping you fit.”

On her last litter pick, Pat collected one plastic beer glass, two bits of balloons, one light cover, half a rubber dog ball, one crisp packet and a handle of a child’s fishing net.

She also got remains of a man’s cap, 12 pieces of plastic rope, one ear tag, one cup holder, one ponytail band and a piece of a fishing bouy.

There was a small plastic bottle, eight plastic straws, six plastic bottle tops, three cotton bud sticks, tile spacers, two electric cable holders and one dog poo bag.

Three bits of plastic bags, six plastic bottle pieces, two wet wipes, three sweet wrappers, two chunks of filler foam, one plastic rope holder and rope and 46 pieces of assorted plastic bits.

Pat added: “Besides the fishing gear, most of these are everyday items used by us and it is shocking to find them polluting our beautiful beaches.

“Please let’s try to be more thoughtful in this coming year.

“I am driven to try and protect our living planet for my children and grandchildren and I will continue to do everything in my power to achieve that.

“52 beach cleans in 2018 was my New Year’s Resolution 12 months ago. I shall not stop as I believe our beaches need me! What will yours be for 2019?”

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