Time we stopped polluting our coast

WALK along the high tide line after the waves have receded and it’s often a disgusting mess.

Old cans, tangles of rope, fishing line and netting, fag ends, odd bits of driftwood, polystyrene, and the occasional unexpected object like a tyre or broken garden chair, sit among flotsam and jetsam.

Then there is the plastic.

Thousands of fragments of plastic cups, cotton buds, multi-pack drink can connectors, bags, bottles and tops of all sorts, just about anything which can be made of plastic.

Artist Fran Crowe illustrated this beautifully with her exhibition at Landguard Fort of the items she has combed from our beaches – her grouping of plastic pieces in their colours was quite astonishing, a striking image of the awfulness of the pollution of our seas.

Bottles bobbing about in the sea off Felixstowe will take 450 years to biodegrade.

Plastic is possibly not even the ocean’s worst enemy.

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Aluminium is reckoned to last up to 500 years.

Other materials can also last a long time – Richard Girling in his book Sea Change says tin cans will survive a century, painted wood 13 years, woollen cloth a year, rope three to 14 months, and cotton cloth one to five months.

As we all know, pollution of our seas is a huge problem, disfiguring our coastlines with even worse consequences for our wildlife.

Fish, birds, seals, whales and others can get caught in the litter or eat the debris, mistaking it for food, which then poisons them, strangles their stomachs, chokes them, killing thousands of creatures every year.

The Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch event in 2009 found 1,849 pieces of litter per kilometre of shore, one for every step. Some 64pc of the total picked up was plastic – 150,000 items.

Government is never going to catch and fine the litter-bugs of the waves – shipping is blamed but there is no proof that they are the bad guys.

In fact, according to the MCS, 42 per cent of the litter found on our shores is left there by visitors – litter dropped on the beach as it is in the streets or thrown from cars, left by picnickers, such as left-behind barbecues, angling litter, dog mess, or just items people forgot to take home. Isn’t it time we did something about it?

? Give me your views – write to richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk or Your Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

? Read Richard Cornwell’s full column every week in FX – the eight-page pull-out all about the Felixstowe area in the Evening Star every Wednesday.