A PURBECK environmentalist has persuaded the organisers of a national beach clean to drop plans to hand out bottles of water to thousands of volunteers.

Steve Trewhella, from Furzebrook near Wareham, was horrified when he discovered that more than 5,000 volunteers cleaning up 50 bays in the Big Beach Clean Up were due to receive a Marks and Spencer snack including bottled water.

He said the event could have been responsible for creating more single-use bottles than its supporters collected.

However, following protests, the Marine Conservation Society, which organised the event, has changed arrangements for the May 11-13 event, which comes from a partnership with the firm.

“Our beaches are blighted with plastic bottles – we have picked up more than 1,500 this year on Dorset’s beaches,” said Steve.

In April a joint Dorset Wildlife Trust and Surfers Against Sewage clean up of World Heritage Site Jurassic Coast’s Worbarrow Bay saw volunteers pick up 163kg of litter including 317 plastic drinks bottles.

“I find it appalling that an environmental organisation which campaigns against single-use plastic, could end up producing more plastic litter than it picks up on the cleans,” said Steve.

He said even though the used plastic bottles would be taken away for recycling, it gave the wrong message.

“The thought of M&S staff walking off a beach with sackfuls of plastic bottles, when the volunteers have spent the morning picking the same things up from the beach, is ironic at best.”

Samantha Fanshawe, MCS chief executive said: “Steve and others have highlighted a valid concern that MCS should have identified as an issue earlier on in the planning stages of the event.”

She said that they had since contacted all registered volunteers asking them to take their own water.

“Bottled water will still be available as an option on request, but we’ll ask that these are re-used by volunteers as part of the condition of accepting it, and all packaging from the lunch will be taken away for recycling.”

She added they were proud of their relationship with M&S, which gave an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness.