Beware of Bottle Beach
BBC presenter and director David Whiteley shares his insightful view on stories from across the county of Essex
As a child, we would spend a lot of time on the beach. Either the quaint little beaches of Leigh on Sea or, if the family was feeling really adventurous, we’d end up in Westcliff. I certainly remember long, hot summers spent playing on the sand and swimming in the sea. The sand always seemed pristine and golden. I may be looking back with rose-tinted spectacles, but that’s certainly how I remember things.
However, I also remember the drama when a rogue piece of glass was discovered in the sand. This could’ve easily found its way into the foot of an unsuspecting child, playing on the beach. I’d call my dad over and he’d dispose of it. The process would usually evoke a large amount of disapproval in the form of adults shaking their heads and tutting at the offending article. How could anyone be so cavalier as to throw such rubbish away?
Well, here we are in 2018, when waste is very much in the forefront of our minds — plastic waste in particular. I can’t remember when I started noticing the plastic waste building up on our coastlines, but now, sadly, we see it everywhere.
A couple of years ago I was making a short documentary with the scientists at CEFAS, The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. We were looking at how plastic waste moves through our water systems. We started off kayaking on a river, to see if we could track down some plastic. Well, we found it everywhere, lurking in the water and tangled up on the river bank. Of course, all this waste eventually ends up in the sea and on the beach.
This year I was making a network documentary for the BBC about landfill mining. Yes, that’s right, mining old landfill for the resources that could be taken from our waste, going back decades. This includes plastic.
Research is being carried out at Cranfield University into turning this plastic into fuel. I’m certainly no scientist, so explaining the process is tricky
‘We certainly have a long way to go to solve the plastic waste problems of the Earth’
for me, but it kind of involves a lot of heat and then a form of oil is left from the process.
There are some who believe this is the future and some who feel strongly that this plastic should be kept securely in the ground, so it can’t do any further harm to the environment.
Part of the filming of the programme involved going to a place called Bottle Beach along the River Thames. We arrived at Coalhouse Fort Park in East Tilbury on a sunny and warm day in the summer holidays. There were loads of families enjoying the fabulous park there.
But just around the corner is Bottle Beach. It’s next to an old landfill site and there it all was, the glass and bottles, some probably Victorian, that give the beach its name.
We certainly have a long way to go to solve the plastic waste problems of the Earth. And I know none of us want our beaches to end up with names like Bottle Beach.