The plastics problem - how one young volunteer is making a big difference at Trimley Marshes

By Steve Aylward

Our volunteers are amazing - meet Josh who is helping to remove plastic, nurdle by nurdle, from Trimley Marshes.

Joshua Drake, from Ipswich, has a passion for improving the environment and has recently made a huge difference at Trimley Marshes nature reserve.

Josh was shocked by the quantity of plastic waste he saw when he and his mother were taking their exercise walk at the reserve, and instead of just walking by he took it upon himself to clear it up. This was no small task, the rubbish along the tide line was a thick tangle of fishing line, rope, plastic sheets, bags and bottles; much of it degraded so it shredded into smaller and smaller fragments as they cleared it. Some of the plastic had become entwined amongst the grasses and plants, and it was a delicate process to safely remove it. He also found thousands of nurdles; tiny pellets of plastic used in manufacturing, which sadly end up polluting our rivers and seas. As you can imagine, clearing these small nurdles was a huge challenge, with hours spent checking the soil with a pair of tweezers in hand.

Litter pick at Trimley Marshes

Josh with plastic he cleared from Trimley Marshes shoreline

Josh feels very strongly that people need to reconsider their plastic use: “It’s terrible and very sad that there is so much plastic on the reserve, which is polluting the habitats of the birds and wildlife there. The ground is covered in nurdles and micro plastics that can be eaten by the birds and it will eventually kill them. I feel that the Docks and nearby companies need to take more care and responsibility for handling plastic safely and deal with any spillages straight away. It would also be better if everyone could use much less plastic so that nature stands a better chance of surviving.”

Josh's Mum, Carol reflected on his effort: “Although it’s been incredibly hard work for Josh, it’s been great knowing that all the rubbish he has taken away won’t be doing any more damage to the area or the wildlife. There is still so much more to do there, and Josh would therefore love to continue clearing the area.”

Andrew Excell, Site Manager at Trimley Marshes, was thrilled: “What a fantastic effort. As you know, the tide strandline harbours so much plastic waste in a concentrated zone, and clearing this zone is a fiddly business. I know only too well the feeling of trying to pick up UV-degraded plastic wrapping only to find it almost perpetually crumbling into smaller pieces! A lot of patience is required for sure.”

Plastic in the ocean isn't just unsightly - it is killing wildlife. Globally, around 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are thought to die from eating or getting entangled in marine litter every year. In fact, studies have shown that 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, with scientists estimating that this could be as much as 99% by 2050 if things continue as they are.

We can all make some small changes to protect the health and lives of the incredible wildlife that call our seas home:

  • Refuse single-use plastics such as bags, bottles, coffee cups, straws and cutlery. Use reusable alternatives such a metal water bottles instead - why not carry a kit in your handbag, rucksack or car?
  • Recycle: When you just can’t avoid using a plastic item (or you forget your metal bottle!), make sure to recycle it. If you can’t find a recycling bin, take it home to recycle there.  
  • Encourage others to play their part. Ask friends, family and colleagues to reconsider their plastic use. Organise a litter pick at your local beach, street or park.