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The Great British Beach Clean, Norfolk edition

The Great British Beach Clean, Holkham, September 2017. SustainableUEA blog

As part of Focus on Waste and Recycling month, I decided to take part in a beach clean. Between Friday 15th and Monday 18th September, the Marine Conservation Society organised The Great British Beach Clean. All over the coast of Great Britain over 260 organised clean-ups took place.

I took part in the Holkham beach clean. There were around 30 of us altogether and it was lovely to get to meet people who I wouldn't have otherwise met. The group was mainly made up of families with children or older couples. It would have been nicer to see some more people in their twenties and thirties but hopefully there were more younger people at the other beach cleans!

Trash rubbish Big British Beach Clean The weather was perfect for a beach clean. We walked along the beach together but were spread out so that we covered as much of the beach as possible. We naturally formed groups and all chatted whilst picking up litter. We ended up walking over 10,000 steps so it was good exercise without even realising!

There wasn't a huge amount of litter on the beach which was probably due to the fact the waves weren't bringing much onto the beach during the week of the clean. According to the leader of the beach clean, a warden from the Holkham Estate, they get the most litter during the winter months when the waves are bringing debris onto the beach. Even so, we did get some interesting finds between us.

Burst balloons look a lot like jellyfish. SustainableUEA blog, photo from Blue Planet Society's twitter

We found quite a few balloons and balloon ribbons. The balloons we saw looked like jellyfish in the way they had deflated. They had become shredded at the edges which resembled tentacles which could be confusing for sea turtles and other marine species that eat jellyfish.

Other things that we found were fishing ropes and plastic packaging that could have been washed up onto the beach. Other things that we collected were clothing items including a lot of socks (people seem to lose their socks on the beach!) and t-shirts, and we also found a wooden pallet. These things would have been left on the beach by visitors. If we hadn't have picked them up they would have been taken by the waves and washed up into the oceans.

It wasn't just rubbish we found, however. Lots of interesting things such as a ray's tail and seal vertebrae were found. These kind of things are often on beaches but we don't often search around the dunes and sand to come across them. As well as cleaning up the oceans, the beach cleans are a great opportunity to learn about marine ecology. The warden was able to identify all the bones found and I enjoyed listening to him explain what other things on the beach were such as the shells so it wasn't just about the litter picking.

Half way through the clean we stopped and had tea and biscuits together which was another opportunity to chat to everyone.

The Great British Beach Clean posterI had a really nice time and I'll be signing up to do some more in the future. You can find information of organised beach cleans via the Marine Conservation Society's web page:


At the moment they have three organised in Norfolk in October, one in November and one in December.

About the author: Emily Lewis

Emily Lewis is a student at UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, and working as UEA’s Assistant Environmental Officer during her Year in Industry. She is interested in living a sustainable life, and exploring fairtrade fashion and vegan food and beauty.