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WATCH: Plastic washes up on Cornwall beaches after Storm Eleanor

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5:20pm 13th January 2018
(Updated 5:20pm 13th January 2018)

Thousands of pieces of plastic are washing up across Cornish beaches in the wake of Storm Eleanor.

It is just days after 80mph gales and big waves battered our coast, causing chaos across the Duchy.

Now campaign groups have shared images and videos on social media of the so-called 'nurdles' and rubbish, which are blighting our beaches.

Millions of tiny bits of plastic wash up onto Cornish shores every year, as well as things like plastic bottles and takeaway cups, but those cleaning it up say the strong winds and bad weather have made it even worse.

In the last week, social media users have spotted the litter on beaches including Perranporth, Gwynver and Newquay.

Cornwall-based charity Surfers Against Sewage have spoken about the larger items washing up on beaches after recent storms too.

Visiting Perranporth, CEO Hugo Tagholm said: "Storm Eleanor has washed up all of this plastic on Perranporth beach, and this is because of the strong waves and the winds reanimating the plastic that's in the sea and depositing it on the shoreline.

"It is a shocking and saddening scene to see and one that I see all too often in Cornwall - particularly after storms.

"We've got lots of the usual suspects - the water bottle, which we find in the thousands on our beaches.

"We've got the drinking straw, we've got single-use plastic cutlery - used for just a few seconds and then discarded only to end up on our beaches for hundreds of years, if not thousands of years.

"All of this for as far as the eye can see - and from one storm.

"This is a sign that we are using too much plastic in society. It is a sign that our seas are in trouble.

"We can't just pick our way out of the problem, the important thing for us to concentrate on now is to stop the flow of plastic to the beaches in the first place."

The group is among a number of campaigns across Cornwall are trying to tackle the plastic problem, such as The Final Straw, which is aiming to make the county the first place to be rid of single-use plastic straws, and Plastic Free Penzance.

You can read more about that here.

It comes as the charity urges the Prime Minister to act now over plastic pollution - after she pledged to get rid of all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years.

However, Hugo warns that is not quick enough.

During a speech, Theresa May said future generations will be shocked by the amount of plastic we use.

She has set out her government's 25-year plan for the environment, saying she is thinking of children who will be born decades from now.

The PM is also promising plastic-free aisles in shops and an extended 5p carrier bag charge in England.

Other things include considering a tax on single-use items such as take-away containers and direct aid spending towards helping developing nations reduce plastic use.

However, Hugo says the PM needs to be 'bold'.

He said: "The time for action is now and we urge the government not to kick the proverbial plastic bottle down the street, but implement new policies and legislation that the country is crying out for to finally go plastic free.

"We must reinvent our relationship with single-use plastic to eliminate, replace and recycle plastics faster and more effectively. Plastic production is already rampant and is also set to increase massively in the next 25 years. We need new legislation and systems to stop plastic at source now. We can’t simply pick our way out of the problem; it’s gone far beyond being simply a littering issue.

"Surfers Against Sewage is already working with tens of thousands of volunteers around the UK to tackle the plastic tide encroaching on our beaches.

"We are also inspiring and equipping communities to go ‘plastic-free’, with hundreds of locations working towards Plastic Free Coastlines with us by eliminating throwaway plastics such as straws, plastic water bottles, bags, cutlery and finding more sustainable alternatives. From grassroots to Government, the time to act is now."

You can read his full statement here.


Back in October, another Cornish charity made a call for the UK to take a 'unique' opportunity during Brexit to save our seas and protect our marine wildlife from plastic waste.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust issued a report emphasising five key challenges which face marine life as the UK prepares to leave the EU, which included the issue of plastic pollution.

At the time, Ruth Williams, marine conservation manager for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: "The issues highlighted in this report are of national concern, but the impacts are often seen and felt locally.

"We have plastic pollution washing ashore around Cornwall in vast quantities, three million tiny plastic 'nurdles' were collected from one Cornish beach in one day!

"Our local communities and volunteers do a fantastic job locally, but we need Government to take these issues seriously and the actions highlighted in the Wildlife Trust Marine Strategy are real positive solutions.

"We need to ensure we take this opportunity to better manage our seas, to create a thriving environment that supports a strong 'blue economy' for the future".

Have you seen plastic pollution since Storm Eleanor? Share your pictures with us! 

5:20pm 13th January 2018

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