Covid-19 and the lockdown has stopped us collecting data for some time. However, now restrictions have eased it was time to get back to West Wittering Beach before the crowds started to come back.
West Wittering is a Blue Flag beach and one of the most popular destinations on the South Coast of the UK. Thousands of visitors enjoy the fine sand and shallow water every day during the summer.
However, West Wittering Beach also has a problem with microplastics and has been one focus of our research for some time. We first spotted this ‘nurdle hotspot’ in 2017 and have been going on a regular basis to try and analyse the scale of distribution of the problem spatially and temporally. We have also been using the location to undertake a comparison of sampling methods over the past two years. In addition, on this occasion we took the opportunity to take some high definition images of a large area. Hopefully we can use this to highlight how the density of microplastics can vary across a stretch of beach.
We spent several days from the date lock down restrictions were eased in the UK collecting samples. We had to get there early in the morning before the crowds started to arrive, but it paid off. In total we managed to collect 122 samples from two large stretches of beach. Of course, that is not the end of the matter. Once collected the samples have to be dried and sorted, the various microplastics separated from organic material and shells, and finally the results are uploaded onto a data base for analysis.