Farlington Marshes 'ruined' by careless littering and microplastics

WHAT was previously one of Portsmouth’s most beautiful spots has been ruined by litter and plastic pollution.

Monday, 6th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 12:06 pm

That is the sombre message from environmental campaigners after The News discovered the terrible state of Farlington Marshes.

The marshes at the north of Eastern Road not only form part of a nature reserve, but are home to thousands of Brent geese, wigeon ducks, teals and other rare birds.

But now, the car park is strewn with discarded plastic bottles, drinks cans and McDonald’s packaging, while the wall to the marshland is covered in polystyrene and microplastics.

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Plastic waste found at Farlington Marshes. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Volunteers from The Final Straw Solent, an anti-plastic campaign run in association with The News, held a large-scale cleanup operation last year.

Co-founder Bianca Carr is ‘disgusted' by the way people have been treating the area.

‘The amount of rubbish down there is astonishing,’ she said.

Reporter David George collects plastic waste at Farlington Marshes. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘But what’s even worse about that is there’s a bin in each car park, literally five or six steps away from where you park.

‘People just don't seem to care – Farlington Marshes is meant to be an area of natural beauty, but in reality it’s a disgusting dump.’

Compounding the problem of litter are the fragments of plastics found in the marshes themselves.

When the tide comes in, these fragments, microplastics and nurdles are washed ashore, settling into the marshland when the tide goes back out.

Microplastics lining the sea wall at Farlington Marshes. Picture: David George

More than two years after the release of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, Bianca says progress has been made in the fight against single-use plastics, but cites Farlington Marshes as showing the extent of the battle ahead.

‘Sometimes it feels like we’re fighting a losing battle,’ Bianca admitted.

‘When you see things like the marshes it makes you wonder if the work you’re doing is having any impact.

‘We’re looking to do something to tackle the microplastics in the near future, but people’s behaviour towards the area needs to change.

‘How anyone can treat a beauty spot in this way is beyond me – it’s vile and the people responsible should be ashamed of themselves.’

Portsmouth City Council have said they hope to help address the problem by ensuring people found dumping rubbish are suitably punished.

Council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘While some people are guilty of not putting their lunch wrappers in the bin one of the big problems is fly-tipping. The council are looking to play a leading role in making sure any member of the public found dumping rubbish is taken to court and fined.’

Mr Vernon-Jackson also cited the issue of wastewater entering Langstone Harbour which contained plastics.

However Southern Water have previously said that any discharge is ‘always screened to remove any paper or other material’.

Christopher Lycett, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Reserve Officer at Farlington Marshes nature reserve, said: ‘Littering and the use of micro plastics is a cause for significant concern, especially for our marine environments. Behaviour from a minority in the car parks can leave them looking unsightly. However, Farlington Marshes remains a critically important site for wildlife within the local area, providing fantastic habitat for overwintering waders and wildfowl.

‘The real victim is Langstone Harbour, where the plastic pollution ends up and gets trapped and is a problem for much of our wildlife.

‘Thanks to the efforts of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust volunteers and other organisations, this is being tackled and we are working with Highways England to tackle issues within the car parks.

‘However we can only tackle a small percentage and it is a problem that needs to be stopped at the source, otherwise it will not end, to the detriment of our harbours very special wildlife. This includes all aspects of our lives and the reduction of single use plastics and microplastics.’