CIGARETTE butts, fast food containers, plastic bottles, pieces of tennis balls and even bits of a fisherman’s plastic gloves were among the items found during a beach clean in Purbeck.

Around 20 children from St. George’s CE VA Primary School and their parents took part in a littler pick on Swanage’s South Beach last weekend.

The school is one of many involved in the Eco-Schools environmental education programme, a global programme that runs in 67 countries around the world.

The event, organised by community group Litter-free Purbeck, saw 56 people give up their Sunday morning lie-in to pick thousands of plastic pieces and other litter from the beach.

Bridget Mayes of Litter-free Purbeck said: “Our volunteers were astonished at the number of cigarette stubs at the Shore Road end of the beach where people use the beach as an ashtray, not realising that stubs include tiny traces of poisonous chemicals as well as microplastics in the filters.

“These get stuck in birds' gullets and accumulate in the stomachs of fish and other marine creatures.”

Jackie Alner, from Blandford Forum, said: “It’s nice to get down here in the winter too when it’s much quieter and to enjoy the town out of the main season. Joining the beach clean today is my way of putting back.”

While Emma Davies travelled from Reading to join in the beach clean.

Emma said: “I fell in love with Swanage years ago and have been visiting ever since. People don’t realise how important it is to keep even the smallest pieces of plastic litter off our beaches.

“Even the tiniest bit of plastic can harm marine creatures and get into our food chain. I really enjoyed the morning and it was well worth the journey.”

A spokesman for Litter-free Purbeck said: “Sir David Attenborough’s recent series ‘Blue Planet 2’ has brought the issue of marine litter to the fore and has prompted people to get involved.”

“It was amazing to see so many people turn out for this first beach clean of 2018. Many of us will now try to reduce amount of plastic we use in every day life and make sure that those we do use, we bin properly after use. We don’t want to leave this for our children to sort out when they’re adults.”

Volunteers are being sought for the next beach clean which takes place as part of Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean campaign from March 2 to 4.