Thanet Rotary clubs say their plan to put a Fin the Fish waste recycling installation on the beach at Margate can no longer go ahead because Thanet council refuses to empty the installation and says volunteers would have to transfer the contents to large bins first.
Inspired by Scarborough’s Fin the Fish, the combined Rotary Clubs of Thanet began working on a similar project for Margate almost a year ago,
Southern Water had pledged to kickstart the fundraising campaign for the Rotary in Thanet project with a significant boost towards the total expected budget of £20,000 and volunteers planned to raise the rest
The installation would have been used to collect plastic waste for recycling – reducing plastic on the beach as well as raising awareness and being a fun but functional piece of art.
But, the scheme has come grinding to a halt after Thanet council said operatives could not empty the installation because they would have to reach in and manually remove the contents.
Thanet council said it would provide large bins beside the fish and would empty those bins but insists council employees cannot remove the contents directly from the installation.
Rotary members then came up with an altered design which included a box underneath to collect the contents but the clubs have been told that volunteers would still have to take responsibility for transferring this to the bins.
Beverley Aitken, from Margate Rotary, said: “We did ask if they would do it if we funded the operatives but the answer was no. They said volunteers should do it.
“We had planned to start our campaign in earnest in the Autumn and to have commissioned the fish by now. We have been unable to do either without the emptying issue being resolved first and foremost.”
Caroline Winzer, from Thanet Sunrise Rotary Club, added: “We had negotiated with Dreamland for storing it during the winter months, they would have had it at indoor events. We have been in touch various private waste contractors about the seafront emptying of the fish who all said they couldn’t assist.
“Even if our volunteers were able to empty it there would have to be a degree of commitment and management. The same scheme works well in other areas and has not been an issue for those local authorities.
“We firmly believe this should be managed by professional operatives, as is the case with other councils.”
Looking after the environment is one of the areas of focus for Rotary clubs internationally and Thanet clubs had hoped this project would promote that as well as providing an artistic installation on the beach by the Sundeck area.
Now they are having to discuss completely changing the project to use brightly coloured wheelie bins instead of the fish sculpture, but Beverley said: “We still do not know if Thanet council will be able to empty them.”
In a statement The Thanet Rotary clubs added: “Having put so much time and effort in to the “Fishing for Plastic” project The Thanet Rotary clubs are saddened that it can’t proceed but remain committed to reducing plastic waste on our beaches and exploring new recycling initiatives that can fulfil this aim.”
A Thanet District Council spokesperson said: “We have been in contact with the Thanet Rotary clubs regarding their proposal for a fish cage to collect plastic materials on Margate Main Sands.
“While the objectives of this project are aligned with the council’s climate change and recycling objectives, there are a number of challenges related to the practicalities of collecting and emptying recyclable materials on the beach.
“We hope that these issues can be addressed and that a mutually acceptable solution can be identified.”