Volunteers tackle clear up of polystyrene block as pieces shed all along Western Undercliff

Coastal wardens Nik, Sam and Greg with the huge block Photo Keith Ross

Thanet Coastal Wardens sprung into action this weekend when a huge polystyrene pontoon washed up in Thanet, shedding thousands of tiny pieces across the Western Undercliff beach.

The lump, described as “about half the size of a car” was washed in from Sandwich Bay on the high tide and southwest winds.

The mess was spotted by coastal warden Nik Mitchell on Friday. He tried to clear it off the beach but was defeated by its size and weight so called in help from fellow wardens Sam and Greg Bessant and Keith Ross who tackled the block and debris the following day.

Residents Trevor Cooper and his wife also came across the mess and tried to help the wardens. They put out a call on the Thanet and Sandwich Coastal Finds facebook page.

Nik, from Minster, said: “Due to the high winds and sheer weight of the object I was unable to get it off the beach on Friday and with every high tide it was being smashed up against the cliff, breaking down into millions of pieces of polystyrene balls.

“It was a mini ecological disaster, smothering the coastline and the sea caves like snow. It even covered the ceilings of the caves.

“Together with three other volunteers Sam, Greg and Keith we headed down there are at low tide on Saturday and cleaned up as much of it as we possibly could.”

The pieces bagged up by the volunteers and the remnant of the 8ft by 5ft block were later removed by Thanet council staff. However, there are still pieces scattered along the entire beach stretch and Nik is urging anyone who goes for a walk that way to take a bag and help with the clear up.

Nik, who runs the Wildlife Conservation in Thanet page, said: “I’ve been back this morning to collect more but there’s still quite a lot of polystyrene there so if anyone has the opportunity it would be great if they could get down there to collect some. However, do be aware of the tide as it’s high and the pieces are quite fine so tedious to gather.

Remaining this morning

“Plastic pollution in our seas has to be taken very serious so immediate action was necessary. It’s  scary that one simple block of polystyrene washing up on our coast can cause so much of a problem and be so hard to sort out.”

Photos Nik Mitchell


  1. Well done to the volunteers. I see TDC are taking credit for doing the work on Kent Online. All TDC do is pick up the bags hard working VOLUNTEERS do.

  2. This article is not entirely accurate. TDC actually cleared up the majority of the debris after asking the volunteers to stop work as they were inside the cave with no PPE (head protection). There has been many chalk falls in Thanet and they were putting themselves at risk of injury or worse especially as there was high wind and rain. Their efforts were appreciated but its not worth putting people at risk.

    • TDC staff took away the stuff the volunteers had bagged and what remained of the polystyrene lump. It is the case that the volunteers were asked to stop due to no PPE

  3. Well done to Nick and the others for attempting to clear it up but it’s a shame he didn’t cal TDC for help straight away on Friday when he first discovered it. It would have prevented a lot of the break up of the block.

  4. Ruby Tuesday, just an update for you, Nik reported this to TDC on Friday the day he discovered it.

  5. The owners of the pontoon that are shedding the polystyrene have been identified. So they will be charged with the costs of the cleanup.

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