A day in the life of a Beachwatch event organiser

It takes planning and an early start when you are cleaning up the beaches of Lancashire. Andy Laverick is a Marine Conservation Society Sea Champion and Lancashire Wildlife Trust volunteer.

I frequently run Beachwatch events on the Sefton Coast. I wanted to share with you a day in the life of an MCS Beachwatch organizer.

First I get all litter pickers, bag hoops, gloves, first aid kit and bin bags ready to be loaded into my car. Next job is to prepare the clipboards and survey forms. I then will attach a survey form and pen or pencil to each of the stack of clipboards I have.

This morning I am at the National Trust Formby site at Victoria Road. I drive up to the kiosk and have a quick chat with the person on the kiosk. I collect a sharps box and emergency handheld radio. I then drive to the meeting point in the beach car park.

I get all the litter pickers in one pile and attach bin bags to each of the bag hoops that I brought with me.  After that I erect the decorating table that I use as a desk, for my supply of leaflets from major conservation organisations such as MCS, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and The Shark Trust. I put on my fetching bright orange MCS hi viz jacket and I'm ready to go.

Our volunteer Andy Laverick cleaning up litter on Formby beach

The awesome volunteers start arriving around 9:40am, some with friends, family or as part of the work group. Each volunteer is ticked off the register. I feel like I’m a teacher at school. At this event we have had over 100 people register to attend so it is a lot of register ticking for me.

I give the volunteers a quick informal team brief. I explain the reasons for running events such as these and explain what they need to do. Each volunteer simply needs to collect and importantly record anything they find on the beach apart from driftwood, seaweed, cuttlefish bones, animal faeces and rubble.

We don’t collect the majority of the above as some of it is naturally occurring or just unpleasant to pick up.

During the brief there is a small section on health and safety, just advising them of what do in emergency situations like finding unexploded ordinance or needles.

I hand out the litter pickers, bag hoops and bin bags. I also hand out the pre-prepared clipboards and survey forms before sending out all the volunteers over the dunes and out onto the beach. I follow the volunteers out on the beach once I have registered, briefed and equipped any late arriving volunteers. I walk along the beach and check that all volunteers are okay or give them another bin bag if they need it.

One of the most important parts of the event is to weigh, and record the weights of each bag of litter as they come back in their ones and twos. I also collect the completed survey forms then thank all the volunteers for their help before they leave.

When I get home after the event or another day, I start to process the completed survey forms, entering the data into a spreadsheet. After processing them all I can then see the totals for each different item listed on the survey form. I then share the final totals and weight with all volunteers involved and post the results on our social media groups.

I also upload the data to the MCS website so it can be used to lobby government for tighter restrictions on beach litter, and in turn protect our oceans.

Well, that is a day in the life of MCS Sea Champion and Beachwatch organiser. Time for a rest, but not before planning in the next event!