I interviewed Dorest-based beach cleaner Amelia (aka Seashorty) about her work
What is Seashorty? Please tell us a bit about what do you do
Seashorty is just me! I am a solo beach cleaner, I go out on my own and pick up litter on the beaches, whether that be litter that has been left behind by people or litter that has washed up on the tide.
I focus mostly on the local beaches - covering from Mudeford to Highcliffe - but I'll absolutely street clean too if I'm out and about and it never stops, wherever I am, my litter bags will be somewhere about my person, they even come on holiday with me. Once you start, it's impossible to stop!
The whole thing snowballed quite quickly, as once I started I wanted to do more. I started out by attending an organised event with a local group but it wasn't long before I struck out on my own and from there I now have Seashorty and as well as that I lead the Highcliffe Beach Clean Team and Plastic Free Highcliffe-on-Sea and I'm trying to get another group started as well!! I organise my own beach clean events locally to try and engage with the community. I try to support local, national and international events with beach cleans to ensure that our area is well and truly on the map for managing litter!
When I say "on the map", I don't just mean figuratively. As I walk, I photograph every piece of litter that I collect. When I get home, I edit the Exif tags and label each piece with what it is, this allows me to easily create meaningful statistics from the data. Everything is also uploaded to OpenLitterMap, where it is mapped to the location it was found - this gives a complete overview of everything found and helps to build a picture of problems. The OpenLitterMap data is completely open for anyone to use for any purpose. All my data is also shared through my website for anyone to access. Having this information helps to inform conversations about litter problems in the area.
What keeps you going? What motivates you to do what you do?
So many things, this is really hard to answer! The impact of plastic on the world around us is devastating. I don't need to quote you facts and figures here, there are plenty of sources for that information.
I am incredibly fortunate to live in such a beautiful place and I hate seeing that spoiled.
I am, surprisingly, not a beach lover - sitting on a beach for a day holds no attraction at all, but I do love the sea and I love walking at the beach, so this gives me purpose. There are definite health, and mental health, benefits to beach cleaning.
It also means that I get to meet like-minded people and not only meet, but connect with - there is such a huge community online of people doing the same thing every day and when you feel like picking up a couple of pieces of plastic is a futile pursuit, seeing the cumulative effect is a real boost.
It really does provide a great sense of satisfaction.
Where does the rubbish come from? and why do people leave things behind?
The rubbish comes from two sources - people and the ocean. You can consolidate that to one source - people, because anything washing up on the tides has inevitably come from human activity.
The litter locally varies through the year. In the summer, it is mostly left behind by beach users. In the winter, more is washed up on the tides.
As to why people leave things behind, that's harder to answer. I don't believe it is a total lack of care, things get dropped, get buried in the sand during the course of a day. That's not to say it's not avoidable, it absolutely is, but it happens. People are usually distracted doing other things and just don't pay attention to the potential of littering. There are cases where people do very deliberately litter and that can usually be attributed to one of two things - blatant disrespect for the world in general or alcohol. That's just my opinion!
Are you hopeful for the future?
I am always hopeful. There are so many alternatives becoming available now to make re-use easier and to help reduce plastic consumption. Changing mindsets is more challenging, but the issues of single use plastics and littering are becoming much more mainstream now and the more noise we make about it the easier it will become to effect change among the majority.
That's why I post online and try to connect with local people. If people can see what is happening and that it is happening right here in their own area rather than in faraway countries, which is often what is reported, I hope that it will have more of an impact and provoke more conversations around the subject which raises awareness and that's where it starts. There is always hope.
How can someone get involved or help out?
In so many ways. If you don't fancy solo cleaning, there are plenty of options.
In this area, you can join Seashorty, Highcliffe Beach Clean Team, Friars Cliff Beach Care, Leave Only Footprints, Litter Free Coast and Sea. There are other groups Bournemouth and Poole way and across Dorset.
More widely, you can join 2MinuteBeachClean and Surfers Against Sewage, or the Marine Conservation Society (you'll find me on there too!). I'm sure there are many more.
Check local social media groups and offline media for adverts, or speak to the local Council as they should know who is running events in their area.
If you want to organise your own beach clean, you can contact the same people for advice, they will point you in the right direction. You must get approval from the land owner first. Insurance and equipment are also required, but that may be covered by some of the other organisations provided you register with them.
for more info & to see Amelia's events, pics & tips on reducing your plastic waste, visit seashorty.co.uk