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Minster Beach litter pickers collect tonnes of rubbish due to waste from illegal Eastchurch dump site

Litter pickers are collecting tonnes of rubbish from a beach plagued by waste that washes up from an illegal dump site.

From shredded carpet, fake grass, building waste, Christmas trees and even dressing gowns, Belinda Lamb and her army of beach cleaners have seen it wash up on one part of Kent’s coastline.

Rubbish on Minster Beach
Rubbish on Minster Beach

The 49-year-old, who works for the not-for-profit Medway Swale Estuary Partnership, began running beach cleans across Sheppey and Medway seven years ago and sees up to 67 volunteers attend her monthly sessions at Minster Leas Beach.

Belinda supplies all the equipment and anyone is welcome to help out.

Last month, 55 volunteers collected 120 bags of rubbish weighing in at 900.5kg - that’s almost a tonne from just one day’s work.

She said: “You just get passionate about beach cleaning and it's very addictive and quite rewarding to remove that much plastic. We collect about 800kg a month.

“It also opens your eyes to plastic pollution but here, at Minster, in particular, it opens your eyes to the fly-tipping on the cliffs that's been happening for many years.”

For three years trucks were illegally depositing waste onto a site in Eastchurch, at the end of Third Avenue, known locally as Eastchurch Gap - just around the corner from Minster.

In June last year, the Environment Agency blocked access to the site with a court order prohibiting anyone from entering or depositing waste there.

However, although the dumping has ceased the damage has already been done.

Belinda, from Maidstone, said: “The litter we pick up from the beach, rather than being litter left by people that have had a day trip here, is industrial.

“So there's loads of building waste, builders’ shoes, builders’ hats, hard bits of plastic that look like paint trays or bits of sealant guns.”

Belinda Lamb, helps organise the Minster beach clean
Belinda Lamb, helps organise the Minster beach clean

Minster Parish Council helps fund the beach cleans and even set up a place where signs are put to tell people when they are taking place.

This has meant litter pick numbers have rocketed from between 10 and 20 people to almost 70.

Belinda added: “I think everybody that lives here is passionate about keeping their beaches clean.

“I also think people need to think about their plastic usage and maybe put pressure on manufacturers and the government that we need to stop this use of plastic in throwaway items.

“I've been collecting Smarties’ lids for the past four years and they're immaculate and they stopped making those in 2005 so it just shows plastic is here forever unless we pick it up.”

Industrial waste is collected by litter pickers along Minster Beach
Industrial waste is collected by litter pickers along Minster Beach

Tracey Bradburn, from Sheerness, has lost count of the number of times she’s volunteered herself to Belinda’s litter-picking events.

The 63-year-old said: “There’s been times when you couldn’t even see the pebbles it’s been so bad.

“Minster Beach is a lovely place and to see it so bad is awful.

“You can fill a bag up in minutes and it is going to go on forever unless the waste that was dumped at Eastchurch and is washing out the cliff is disposed of properly.

“After the recent big storm we came down and it was just heartbreaking. The beach was covered in waste.

Tracey Bradburn, from Sheerness, has been litter picking around the Island on many occasions
Tracey Bradburn, from Sheerness, has been litter picking around the Island on many occasions

“Unless it is cleared from the source it’ll go on for a long time, even longer than what it would if it was cleaned up now.

“I’ve collected dressing gowns, coats, tarpaulin, everything you can imagine.”

The Environment Agency was previously asked about its plans to clean up the illegal dumpsite.

A spokesperson said: “The Environment Agency continues its criminal investigation into alleged waste crime, gathering evidence and working with Kent Police and other agencies across Swale.

“This includes regular site visits and we continue to keep all enforcement options under constant review.”

Thomas Furnell, his wife, 32-year-old Hayley, and their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Aria, all from Minster, were among those litter picking at the latest beach clean on Friday, April 12.

Thomas and Hayley Furnell, with their daughter, Aria, at the Minster beach clean
Thomas and Hayley Furnell, with their daughter, Aria, at the Minster beach clean

The 34-year-old said: “We have started the CIC Elmley Dray school in Marina Drive and we have our first students starting next week.

“Our work is all about giving back to the area and the community so when we found out about the monthly beach cleans we wanted to get involved.

“In the future, we also want to bring our pupils down here to help as well as part of their coastal school learning.”

Hayley, who is a director for the school alongside Thomas, added: “We’ve been twice now and I couldn’t believe how messy the beach was.

“I wouldn’t want my daughter here on the beach if it was messy so that’s why we take part and help clean it up.”

The next Minster Beach Clean is taking place on Wednesday, May 15, between 10am and midday.

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