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Sailors join community beach care project

16 March 2018
Sailors from HMS Raleigh have joined with the local community to play their part in removing plastic from a Cornish beach.

The group of sailors, led by the Commanding Officer, Captain Ellie Ablett, spent a morning at Tregantle beach working with members of the Rame Peninsula Beach Care and Neil Hembrow of the Keep Britain Tidy Beachcare project.

While some used traditional pickers to clear the debris, others painstakingly swept the beach with hand-brushes to remove the tiny bits of micro-plastic, known as nurdles.  These small pellets are about the size of a lentil and are melted down to form the plastic items in every day use.

Claire Wallerstein formed Rame Peninsula Beach Care about five years ago and the organisation currently carries out monthly cleans.  She said that Tregantle is one of a few beaches in Cornwall that has a particular problem with the micro plastics, pieces of plastic smaller than five millimetres across, most likely due to the fine sand and local currents.

Claire explained: “Because the nurdles are so tiny, you can imagine how easily these are lost during shipping or transport or production. It’s estimated that around 53 billion of these are lost down the drains of plastic factories just in the UK every year.  All drains lead to the sea and that’s why these things keep washing up.”

Rob Arnold, of the Rame Peninsular Beach Care, has developed a machine from many recycled parts to separate the sand and heavy material from the plastic.

As the Commanding Officer of HMS Raleigh I’ve always been very keen to maintain the very close ties that we have with the local community and help in any way we can in environmental projects particularly. It’s great to be out here with so many of the young men and women from HMS Raleigh, clearing the beaches, especially as this is Ministry of Defence owned land.

Capt Ellie Ablett

Claire said: “We’re actually quite lucky because this is one beach that we can bring our machine to. We’ve got a fresh water source and on a day like today we’ll probably remove about two to three million nurdles, which is a massive amount of very dangerous micro plastics taken out of the eco-system.

"They look like fish eggs, which is what a lot of marine creatures eat, so when they do autopsies on sea birds and fish this is what they are finding.

"It’s awesome to have the sailors here helping out, the more people you have, the more impact you can make.

"It’s nice that the local community and HMS Raleigh can work together to do this, they’ve got the brawn and we’ve got the machine.”

Most of the sailors taking part have recently completed their initial naval training at HMS Raleigh and are waiting for the next phase of their training to begin.

Capt Ellie Ablett said: “As the Commanding Officer of HMS Raleigh I’ve always been very keen to maintain the very close ties that we have with the local community and help in any way we can in environmental projects particularly.

"It’s great to be out here with so many of the young men and women from HMS Raleigh, clearing the beaches, especially as this is Ministry of Defence owned land.”

As well as the firing ranges, the beach itself if regularly used by the Royal Marines to practice amphibious operations and beach assaults.  When the area is not in use by the military it is open for the public to enjoy.

Lieutenant Colonel Andy Westcott, of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, is responsible for the land in this area used for Defence training. He said:  “Much of the Defence training estate areas located throughout the country is very big on conservation.

"We have a conservation group associated with the Fort and the beach and we are thrilled that local people and now HMS Raleigh are here working.  It’s a fantastic thing.”

Regular cleans of Tregantle beach in particular are organised by Chief Petty Officer Craig Brook-Hewitt, who works at HMS Raleigh.

A Facebook page, Tregantle Beach Clean, has been set-up to give details.

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