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'Disheartened but not surprised' – Natalie Harris and Emily Shaw’s three-day coast clean nets 30kg of litter

TWO friends who spent three days collecting rubbish along a 20km stretch of the south coast managed to collect more than 30kg of waste including bottle tops, cable ties, crisp packets, and industrial plastic.

Natalie Harris and Emily Shaw started out at the lighthouse on Keyhaven Spit and finished at Hengistbury Head.

“Much of what we collected has the potential to be extremely harmful to marine life, especially the plastic as much of it had started to break up into smaller pieces,” Natalie told the A&T.

Emily (left) and Natalie with the litter they picked up from Highcliffe beach
Emily (left) and Natalie with the litter they picked up from Highcliffe beach

“At Hengistbury Head we had to employ a sand sifting technique to capture nurdles – small plastic pellets used for manufacturing products – collecting in total 1,049. They can be especially dangerous.”

More than one million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution every year, scientists calculate.

Four years ago, Natalie set up an Instagram account called ‘Clean Our Seas’ on which she documents her beach and community tidy-ups.

This most recent litter pick was to celebrate her followers hitting the 20,000 mark.

Sand sifting at Hengistbury Head
Sand sifting at Hengistbury Head

The start of their challenge involved the discovery of bags full of discarded items, including lost fishing gear known as ‘ghost rope’ – one found at Barton weighed 5kg.

Barton beach was particularly bad for rubbish, said Natalie, who found several disposable barbecues abandoned after use.

Their final day started at Highcliffe Castle beach, going along Steamer Point, Avon beach and Mudeford Quay before ending at Hengistbury Head beach.

After their three-day marathon the women organised the litter in order to dispose of the recyclables correctly.

Natalie with 5kg of ghost rope at Barton beach
Natalie with 5kg of ghost rope at Barton beach

Natalie said: “We weren’t surprised at the amount of litter we collected but it was certainly disheartening.

“It was, however, encouraging when people engaged with us, interested in what we were doing and even helping us along the way.”

In an effort to help keep our coast clean New Forest District Council has installed free rubbish bag dispensers at six beaches this year.

The council had identified Barton, Milford, Calshot, Hordle Cliff and Naish as littering hotspots. As a result it increased patrols and emptied bins more frequently, providing bigger ones where possible to help keep the areas free of litter.

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