Volunteer groups criticise council grass cutting as litter is ‘chewed up’ into ‘tens of thousands of pieces’

The groups have asked for a warning so they can prepare to clean up the 'micro' plastics

Volunteer litter pickers in Botany Bay, Cliftonville and Northdown Park have criticised Thanet District Council’s grass cutting policy claiming it adds to the growing problem of micro plastics in local and marine environments.

Scott Manclark of the Northdown Park Friends’ litter picking group, said: “The contractor fails to pick up litter deposited in the long grass, so the rotors chew up the glass and plastics.

“It turns thousands of pieces of litter into tens of thousands of pieces. The net effect is that glass bottles are smashed into hazardous shards and plastics are mulched and inevitably then become part of the eco-system. Worse, the lighter particles blow across to the beaches and into the sea.”

Along the coast at Botany Bay the contractor has repeated the exercise on the Ridings – an ecologically sensitive area of grassland above the cliffs along Botany and Foreness Bay.

Barry Manners, of the Friends off Botany Bay and Kingsgate, said: “Volunteers first alerted our WhatsApp Group on Monday.

“They picked up several bags on the spot as the finer plastic pieces were being blown onto the clifftop and beach. Over the last few days volunteers have collected several more bags of mulched, shredded and torn plastic litter, as well as smashed glass from the affected areas. Hopefully they’ve mitigated the worst effects”.

In nearby Cliftonville, the Friends of Cliftonville Coastline has previously questioned the need to cut grass verges at all.

The groups are calling on Thanet council to at least give them notice of proposed grass cutting.

Barry said: “If we had a few days’ notice we could mobilise to blitz the area with volunteers in protective boots and leggings to remove the more visible litter. There’s some nasty stuff in there, not least of all human faeces from beach visitors. The grass cutting has the unfortunate effect of mulching and spreading it.

“We’re all acutely aware that budgets are stretched to breaking point and this will only get worse, therefore it would be helpful if TDC could communicate with local groups and tap in to the community’s goodwill to prevent similar problems in future.”

Friends of Northdown Park

In Northdown Park, Scott says: “Volunteers find it frustrating as an easily disposed of plastic cup can become twenty pieces of fiddly plastic.”

He and his fellow volunteers, including his daughters Holly and Sophia, will be out again today (September 12) between 2pm – 3 pm to collect as much of the newly shredded litter as possible.

The Botany Bay group will be cleaning The Ridings and beaches this Sunday (September 13) meeting at 530pm (Botany Road beach entrance) – they usually have a glass of wine for volunteers afterwards too.

If you are unable to join these events you could get involved in the Keep Britain Tidy, “Great British September Clean” campaign which is running now until September 27.

More information at https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/get-involved/support-our-campaigns/great-british-spring-clean/pledge-to-pick

The Friends of Cliftonville Coastline also have a community day today (September 12) from 11am to 1pm, inviting people to help take care of the community flower beds.

Volunteers will meet at the Ethelbert Crescent flowerbeds.

Grass cutting is carried out between March and October, with the majority of areas cut every three to four weeks.

Thanet council says grass is cut but not collected because of the high cost of removal and disposal.

It is carried out on a rolling programme that takes at least three weeks to complete.

Thanet District Council is not a highway authority and is not responsible for the grass cutting on highway verges. This service is provided by Kent County Council.

Maintenance of grass spaces in rural areas is generally the responsibility of the local Town or Parish Councils.