Did you notice half a dozen folk wandering along the Grays riverfront, on Sunday morning, apparently collecting litter? 

Well, these are the Grays Beachcombers and their primary purpose is to collect waste plastic that would otherwise be washed back into the Thames polluting the river and, ultimately, our seas. 

Meeting by Thurrock Yacht Club at 10.30 on the first Sunday of each month the Beachcombers are now in their fifth year of helping to clean up our riverfront. 

This weekend, they saved 20 single use plastic drink bottles from the river. 

This time last year they collected 45 plastic bottles and before the pandemic would collect over a hundred bottles each time they went out – between them they have collected tens of thousands of pieces of plastic. 

And, while bottles, pots and food trays are the most obvious forms of plastic pollution other sources can be harder to spot.  

Things like, plastic straws and cotton buds – though now both banned – litter our river banks as do plastic lids from tubes of sweets or bottles.  

And, when plastic breaks down it doesn’t disappear, it gets smaller, creating tiny particles called microplastics. 

Even clothes made from artificial materials shed microplastic fibres when they’re washed. 

 Microbeads, another type of microplastic, are sometimes added to products such as cosmetics and toothpaste. 

Steve Catchpole, who leads the Grays Beachcombers, says; 

“As we have seen a welcome fall in the number of plastic drink bottles we collect it has given us the chance to get on with the really important task of getting to grips with some of those damaging micro plastics – it’s more time consuming but ends up with us collecting fewer sacks of rubbish.” 

Some of the smaller plastic items the Grays Beachcombers are now concentrating on. 

If you would like to join the Beachcombers, just come along on the first Sunday of the month, you will get a warm welcome. 

Wear sturdy shoes – all other equipment is provided. 

The session ends at around midday with a hot drink and a snack at the nearby Lightship Café.