Over 1000 plastic toys collected by one volunteer group on Blackpool beach this summer
Shocking amounts of discarded plastic toys found on Blackpool beaches this summer prompted a plea from a beach clean leader: "Clean up your act."
Steven King, 33, of Oxford Road in Marton, said the toys he had collected over summer were "the nicer stuff," and in fact he had cleaned up three times more plastic than the toys alone.
Mr King, a DJ and founder of the Big Blackpool Beach Clean group, picked up 307 buckets, 337 spades, 602 plastic toy shapes, 137 plastic rakes and over 50 footballs, sieves and watering cans between May and October this year.
He set up The Big Blackpool Beach Clean during the first national coronavirus lockdown, after he grew concerned about the levels of litter he was finding.
On one occasion, Steven and his volunteers filled 53 bags with rubbish from the sands.
Plastic toys found on the shore were not only left by resort tourists, but also by local families enjoying the sun, Mr King explained.
"I've been cleaning the beaches for over 20 years, I remember watching David Attenborough, my absolute hero, when I was 13 and thinking I could do something to help the planet too," he said.
"So I did. I've been cleaning beaches here ever since.
"Even during the lockdown there were hundreds of things being left on the beach between North Pier and South Pier.
"A lot of people tell me it's all down to the tourists, but you'd be surprised. I've been doing this for years and I can tell when families are locals."
Steven and a small team of five regular volunteers went out every day during summer, cleaning the beaches and promenade between South and North Piers.
He was concerned that the photos of Blackpool beaches emerging during lockdown, showcasing the clear waters and clean stretches of beach, may have enticed more people to visit and leave litter.
"I think there's a huge issue with litter, and when you see it all first hand you see exactly how much of it there is," Steven continued.
"I clean the beach because I want to do it, I don't get paid for it. Most of the toys we picked up came from the tide coming in, and we always made sure it wasn't being played with.
"I've kept it all at my house, and I have a few plans for it all.
"I am going to donate some to schools and nurseries, but I'd also like to get a pedlar's licence so I can either sell them or rent them out to families.
"It'd be a good opportunity to educate people about the importance of keeping the environment safe too."
Along with plans for the discarded plastic toys, Mr King also hoped to encourage shop owners on the promenade to play their part in keeping beaches clean.
"I want to print some leaflets off and hand them out to all the shops which sell these plastic toys," he added.
"The netting that holds them altogether is a massive issue on the beaches. Animals can get stuck in them and they end up in the sea.
"I'd really like shop owners to take the leaflets and discard the netting themselves when someone purchases the toys, so they don't end up on the beach.
"We need to clean our act up - take care of our beach, take care of other beaches, protect wildlife and save the planet."
In September, a survey conducted by charity The Marine Conservation Society found that plastic waste on our beaches was increasing, as a result of an increase in discarded PPE.
Volunteers around the UK were asked to organise their own smaller beach cleans in "bubbles", in line with Government guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Face masks and plastic gloves were found on almost 30 per cent of beaches cleaned by Marine Conservation Society volunteers during the week-long event.
Lizzie Prior, Great British Beach Clean co-ordinator, said: "The amount of PPE our volunteers found on beaches and inland this year is certainly of concern.
"Considering mask-wearing was only made mandatory in shops in England in late July, little more than three months before the Great British Beach Clean, the sharp increase in PPE litter should be a word of warning for what could be a new form of litter polluting our beaches in the future."