Litter on the beach is a growing problem across the globe but is the problem getting worse here in Northumberland? A year-long litter-surveying project aims to find out how big a problem beach litter is and where it all comes from but they need volunteers to help count it all.

A grant from the Local Environmental Action Fund (LEAF) at the Community Foundation has enabled the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership to recruit and train volunteers to carry out a year-long beach litter survey on all of the beaches in the Area. Surveyors will be out in all seasons, counting every single piece of litter on their section of the beach.

Explaining how the project works, Iain Robson the Access and Natural Environment Officer at the AONB Partnership said “This survey is a repeat of a beach litter project we did in 2007. We are using the same methodology so this should give us an accurate picture of whether there is more or less litter on the beach than there was ten years ago.

“We will also find out if certain items have increased or decreased. For example, we would expect to find fewer plastic bags since the carrier-bag tax but we might find more plastic bottles as their use has increased.”

Councillor Jeff Watson, Chair of the AONB Partnership said ”Lots of effort goes into cleaning rubbish off the beach, which is great, but we should also be tackling it at source, before it even gets onto the beach. We can only do this if we know where it is coming from.”

The project aims to survey every beach between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Amble at least four times per year. The results will then be analysed and a report produced with an action plan to tackle the problem.

Funding was provided through LEAF, a collaboration between the Community Foundation, Shears Foundation, Greggs Foundation and individual and corporate donors such as Muckle LLP..

Katie Wellstead, Principal Advisor, Environment at the Community Foundation said:

“Our Vital Signs research at the Community Foundation states that preserving the North East’s unique landscape, flora and fauna, and encouraging greater public understanding of their value, remains a key priority for philanthropy.

“It is important that everyone does their bit for the environment whether it involves helping out with local environmental projects such as this, recycling more or taking a bike to work rather than driving. We’re delighted to AONB and provide people with the power to do good.”

The North East’s leading independent law firm for businesses, Muckle LLP, has supported LEAF since its inception and this time donated £2,000 specifically to aid this project.

Andrew Davison, Muckle LLP partner, is chairman of the its Let’s Think Green Team, set up to help reduce the firm’s carbon emissions and improve the local environment. “
He said: “Each year we review our carbon footprint, calculate the cost of our emissions and, through LEAF, donate that value to North East projects dedicated to improving the environment.

“This year, Muckle LLP’s employees voted to support this project and we are delighted that our donation will be used to improve the beaches of Northumberland almost instantly. Crucially, this work will make a lasting difference in helping to tackle the causes of waste in our seas and on our beaches, and we are immensely grateful to the organisers and volunteers who will devote their time to these valuable clean-up and survey exercises.”

The project will be delivered by Coast Care, a volunteering initiative on the Northumberland coast and they have organised two training sessions for volunteers wanting to help with beach clean-up events and litter surveys;

Tuesday 21st November at 7pm at Seahouses Hub

Thursday 30th November at 7pm at Boulmer Memorial Hall

Each session will last an hour and volunteers will receive training on how to safely survey and collect litter on the beach.

If you would like to attend either event or find out more about the project, contact Laura Shearer on 07813 563084 or email [email protected] . More information about the events and the project can be found on the Coast Care website

Image: volunteers surveying litter at Berwick-upon-Tweed Photo: Anna Chouler