Volunteering: 2 days cleaning the beach…

I’m fortunate that my employer allows its staff to do local volunteering for a couple of days each year. Last year I helped out at Landguard Nature Reserve in Felixstowe, putting up some fencing and rebuilding some steps. This year I wanted to do something in the fresh air again, so decided to spend two days cleaning various stretches of Felixstowe beach.

Why beach cleaning?

For the last 18 months, I’ve been an active supporter of the “2 Minute Beach Clean” campaign. This encourages anyone who visits a beach to spend 2 minutes picking up anything that shouldn’t be there.

A 2 minute beach clean might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it is important. Every piece of plastic removed from the marine environment is no longer a danger to the animals that still live there.

I thought I would turn 2 minutes into 2 days and it would be interesting to see what, and how much, I could pick up.

Here are the stats!

  • 10 hours of beach cleaning
  • 10kg of rubbish collected
  • 1.88km of beach covered
    • Port of Felixstowe
    • Brackenbury Cliffs
    • Martello Park to Felixstowe Pier

What did you collect?

Sadly a lot of these items I regularly collect on my usual 2 minute beach cleans. There is a lot of single-use plastic:

  • Cotton bud sticks
  • Plastic bottle tops
  • Plastic bottles
  • Drinks cans
  • Plastic drinks cups
  • Shotgun cartridges and wadding
  • Food wrappers
  • Wipes and sanitary products
  • Cable ties
  • Newspaper
  • Polystyrene
  • Balloons
  • Foam ear plugs
  • Fishing line
  • Fishing rigging (beads, breakaway impact shields, etc.)
  • Random pieces of hard plastic
  • Plastic cutlery (ice cream spoons, chip forks, etc.)
  • Straws
  • Coffee cup lids

10kg of rubbish

Did you collect anything unusual?

Although it’s quite depressing seeing the amount of litter and waste on the beach, it is quite exciting (…really!) as you never know what you’ll find. I did pick up a few little nuggets of ‘gold’ which us beachcombers are always on the lookout for:

  • Smarties lids (3.5 found on this clean)
  • Lego pieces (2 pieces found on this clean)
  • Sea glass

But the most exciting find happened right at the end of the two days, it was almost karmic. Sitting all on its own on the edge of water as the tide was coming in… a mammoth’s tooth.

I had an idea that’s what it was, but took to social media to get some answers, where it was confirmed! It is quite a rare find, and the reason I’ll never get tired of heading to the beach and picking up rubbish.

The tooth of a mammoth!

What do you do with everything you’ve collected?

Well, as if collecting litter wasn’t glamorous enough (!), taking it all home to sort through is a beautifully smelly job. I will put anything appropriate in the recycling bin, keep and wash anything that I think I can turn into art (see below) and the rest is sadly destined for the wheelie bin.

Beach-cleaned plastic turned into art

Social media response

There’s a fabulous army of beach cleaners out there, especially on social media. I’d only mentioned to a few people about my two volunteering days on the beach, but the response I’ve had so far has blown me away.

In just a matter of days, the single picture I posted on Instagram and Twitter has had over 1,000 engagements (likes, shares, etc.) and has been seen by nearly 10,000 people. It was shared by Therese Coffey MP (Suffolk Coastal MP and DEFRA minister), Mark Murphy (BBC Radio Suffolk), The Marine Conservation Society and environmentalists around the world.

So what’s next?

I’d like to involve Felixstowe businesses in keeping our beach clean and tackling the war on plastic. Not only can we save marine life, but a dirty beach is a risk to our health and potentially damaging to Felixstowe’s economy.

Helen and Clare at Felixstowe Forward and Kate at Beach Bonkers have been fabulous supporters of beach cleaning, and recently installed a 2 Minute Beach Clean Board in Felixstowe which enables beach-goers to clean safely with litter pickers and bags.

I’d love to see Felixstowe businesses contributing to the installation of more of these boards and assess their use of plastics.

There are many organised beach cleans in Felixstowe, it would be good to get some co-ordination of them and promote them further.

For me, I’ll keep doing my 2 minutes whenever I’m down at the beach. I’m no eco-warrior, there’s certainly more in my life I could do to be kinder to the environment, but I’m working on it! So if this average Joe can do it, YOU have no excuse…

Find out more…

Photos from the 2 day clean…


Can you eat these?!


Straws suck

Balloons blow

Fishing line

Having a quick rest

Lego legs!

Smarties lid – they stopped making these in 2005…


  • Faye Smith

    Wow Ben, I love this! So inspirational. Thanks 🙂

    • Ben

      Thanks Faye! 🙂

  • Lou

    As you know – I’m a big lover of your work! Thank you for helping to keep the beach clean for us all to enjoy x

    • Ben

      Thanks Lou!

  • Janet

    I had already heard about this concept and promoted it, but your blog is inspiring Ben – I’m going to get my little ones to have a go with me soon! Especially now I know about the 2 minute clean board.

    • Ben

      ahh thank you Janet… we love a bit of family volunteering!

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