EVERY year, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole welcomes 11.2 million visitors to its beautiful beaches.

Residents and visitors alike flock to the golden sands, particularly during the summer months, to soak up the sunshine and swim in the sea.

However, large footfall also means large quantities of litter left strewn across our beaches, with BCP Council spending £1/2 million a year to keep them clean.

The council collects around 2000 tons of waste per year from the seafront and use three beach tractors, surf rakes and other tractor mounted kit, plus staff members who litter pick to help keep the beaches litter-free.

Last year thousands of people descended onto beaches in the BCP area, as well as beauty spots further afield such as Durdle Door.

This resulted in thousands of tonnes of litter being collected by the council and volunteer beach cleaners.

So how much did the litter left on our beaches cost last year, and will we pay the price again this year?

The litter that blighted our beaches last year

Litter left on beaches across the BCP area was rife last year.

Numerous beach cleans took place across Dorset, with litter pickers clearing away single-use plastics, disposable barbecues, cutlery, food waste and much more.

Bournemouth Echo: Rubbish left by Highcliffe beach last springRubbish left by Highcliffe beach last spring

On June 1 2020, BCP Council told the Daily Echo an estimated 20 tonnes of litter was removed by its seafront teams on Saturday, May 30 and Sunday 31.

At the time, residents were concerned about the lack of bins in the area and believed this to be the cause of the litter.

Sandy Morris from Friars Cliff, said: “The council has removed some of the bins in the area, especially the dog waste bins, and this creates a problem as people leave their waste where the bin used to be.”

BCP Council has recently revealed that, on one day alone in June last year, council staff collected 50 tonnes of rubbish from our beaches.

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Sandbanks was the next target of litter louts a month later.

On July 31 2020, Poole resident Becky Lever carried eight sacks brimming with rubbish back to her house and spent a Sunday afternoon in her garden sorting through it all.

Bournemouth Echo: Litter collected by Becky Lever July 2020Litter collected by Becky Lever July 2020

Becky collected five glass bottles, 24 plastic bottles, 10 cans, 30 toys, two barbecues, two shoes, 19 cups, three balls, one cup lid, an unopened back of 20 sausages, seven plastic containers and 28 bottle lids.

She also collected 10 metal caps, 15 pieces of hard plastic, two masks, countless soft plastics, countless wet wipes, 15 crisp packets, four sandwich packets, six cigarette butts, one lighter, one ceramic bowl, five pieces of plastic cutlery, two lolly sticks, one rope, one clothing, 26 sweet/chocolate wrappers and seven sauce sachets, amongst many beach toys.

The amount of litter collected and cleared away by residents, volunteers and BCP Council last year is staggering, and there are concerns history will repeat itself this year if the temperature rises.

The latest bank holiday – did the beaches bear the brunt?

So far this year there have been no outstanding incidents of large quantities of litter frequently left on beaches in the BCP area.

Footfall for the latest Bank Holiday (May 1 to May 3) for Pier Approach was as follows: 

  • May 1: 15,132
  • May 2: 23,742
  • May 3: 8,706

BCP Council has not said if lots of litter was left in the area during this time, but it is safe to presume that it remains unscathed, perhaps due to the lack of warm weather over the long weekend.

Although the litter left on our beaches this year has so far been minimal (apart from the litter cleared from Kite Beach at the beginning of April), the council wants to urge people to remember the Leave Only Footprints top tips.

Bournemouth Echo: Kite Beach litter, April 2021. Photo: Coacoara FoundationKite Beach litter, April 2021. Photo: Coacoara Foundation

These include: always carry your own reusable water bottle and cup, bring your own re-useable food containers, cutlery and even ashtrays, take your rubbish home and dispose of it safely if beach bins are full, and have a quick check around the beach to make sure you’ve picked up everything you bought with you to the beach.

How will BCP tackle litter louts this year?

The simple answer is technology.

BCP Council will be using drone technology and AI to tackle litter in the conurbation.

Bournemouth Echo: Bournemouth beach 2020. Photo by Greg Luckhurst, Bournemouth Daily EchoBournemouth beach 2020. Photo by Greg Luckhurst, Bournemouth Daily Echo

The council is partnering with environmental charity Hubbub and McDonald’s to trial the approach, which will see intelligence gathered from drone data to inform the future placement of bins, street cleansing schedules and behaviour change campaigns to encourage visitors to dispose of their litter responsibly.

In March, the first drones were deployed across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

This was done to monitor litter while the majority of lockdown restrictions were in place to show how clean local streets, parks and beaches can be if the local area is cared.  According to BCP, the audit will be repeated later this month as the weather improves and further lockdown restrictions ease.

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This data will inform a series of “litter-busting interventions” over the course of the summer and a further survey will take place in July to assess the effectiveness of the actions taken.

Additionally, the data collated regarding litter trends, hotspots and behaviour will also play a vital role in longer term the council’s bin strategy.

Further plans are also in place to ensure the council is “fully prepared” for the summer season.

This includes more enforcement around prominent issues seen last year, such as car parking and camping on the beach.

Bournemouth Echo: Camping on the beach June 2020. Photo: Matt PinnerCamping on the beach June 2020. Photo: Matt Pinner

Director for Destination and Culture, BCP Council, Chris Saunders said: “People will see more enforcement around car-parking, anti-social behaviour and camping on the beach. Litter and waste-management will be stepped up to keep our resort looking its best. Communications and signage will encourage people more strongly to dispose of their rubbish properly and take away whatever they brought.

“Our message is simple, if people do find a bin is full, please find another one or take the litter home.”

“We want all our residents and visitors to have a great summer and taking responsibility for litter is an important role everyone can play in maintaining a clean, happy and healthy resort.”

Mr Saunders also said that more than 650 bins have been placed across the seafront for people to use, and extra collections will occur in order to keep on top of the rubbish.

Bournemouth Echo: Full rubbish bins at Bournemouth beachFull rubbish bins at Bournemouth beach

He said: “We’ve also got extra manual crews ready to stand up on days when the beach and promenade are busy. Through our Leave Only Footprints campaign we’re encouraging residents and visitors to be environmentally conscious, particularly in relation to waste disposal.

“Not only does litter cost time and money to be cleared away, but it can also have a harmful effect on coastal wildlife. We are incredibly proud of our stunning coastline and there really is no excuse for people to leave litter on the beach, there is plenty of provision in place.”

Veterinary surgeon and pet nutrition expert, Dr Joe Inglis, has highlighted the items that are dangerous to local wildlife.

Crisp packets, plastic bags, cans, glass, balloons, and bread are just six things that pose a danger to wildlife, and members of the public are urged to avoid leaving them on Bournemouth beaches.

Dr Inglis said: “Always clear up any litter and recycle responsibly and appropriately where necessary. Try to avoid single-use plastic bags, and safely dispose of any you do use – tying a knot in the top of plastic bags before recycling as this can help prevent deaths. Help protect animals by cutting up balloons before putting them safely into your bin.”

What role will the BCP Beach Check app play in reducing litter left on beaches?

New developments have been made to the app, which gives residents and visitors real-time updates on the crowding status of local beaches, to now include car parks and toilets.

Bournemouth Echo: Screenshot, inset, from the BCPBeachCheck appScreenshot, inset, from the BCPBeachCheck app

It was downloaded by nearly 40,000 people last year and helped them to plan their visit to the conurbation.

The latest improvements hope to see visitors plan their trip, especially to the beach, more rigorously, with the hope that if visitors spread out and keep an eye on numbers, less litter will accumulate on our beaches.

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BCP Council’s Portfolio Holder for Tourism, Leisure and Culture, Cllr Mohan Iyengar said: “We are preparing for a good many visitor this summer as lockdown is eased and people can travel. The app will be valuable, helping people to make good choices about where to be – avoiding the busiest spots, staying distanced and being safe.

“It’s an aid to staying safe, building confidence and really boosting our tourism business for everyone involved.”