Be­ware of Bot­tle Beach

BBC pre­sen­ter and di­rec­tor David White­ley shares his in­sight­ful view on sto­ries from across the county of Es­sex

Essex Life - - PROMOTION -

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.

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