first we pick, and then we sort

I’ve been sorting through the hauls from a couple of recent beach cleans. Well, to be honest, the bags sat in my back yard for a few weeks – it’s one thing to pick up rubbish, it’s quite another to take it out from the bags and process it – a tedious task even on a sunny day.

Here’s what the rubbish from Sunny Cove looks like when I dump it out onto an old shower curtain in my back yard:

And here’s what it looks like when I’ve sorted it into categories of rubbish:

The categories are my own invention, but pretty obvious: plastic bottles and bottle fragments; foam (polystyrene and cellular foam;) plastic wrappers (crisp packets, chocolate bar wrappers etc;) plastic bags; soft plastic items/fragments; hard plastic items/fragments; nylon rope; fishing line; fishing nets; tin cans/fragments and other metal items, and rubber items/fragments.

Once it’s sorted it’s time to count. This haul is made up of 1,087  pieces – including:         22 plastic bottles; 6 wrappers; 36 soft plastic items, including 2 fishing lures, and 3 vending machine cups; 30 hard plastic items including 3 lighters and a toilet brush and 33 metal items, including 20 cans and can fragments, a hairspray can and a camping gas container.

By far the single biggest item in this haul, though was foam:

This haul contains over 928 pieces of foam, including 123 pieces of “bread roll” foam (the yellowed foam in the top left corner of the photo and more than 615 pieces of polystyrene.

I gave up counting the polystyrene once I got to the single pieces, the pieces that get squished together to make something:

It’s the teeny tiny things that are my obsession when cleaning beaches, and I always find lots of foam and polystyrene at this site: it was these pieces of polystyrene that almost got us caught out by the tide, I was so determined to pick them all up. An impossible task!

In case you’re wondering, most of this haul went back into the bags and into my household rubbish bin – the only items I can recycle in Cornwall are the plastic bottles and cans .


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