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Coastal clean-up groups also help to trace polluters

Volunteers regularly clean up debris from France’s beaches along the Channel and Atlantic coasts but several also try to trace the origin of the tonnes of rubbish and, perhaps, work to stop it.

Groups such as Sea-Mer in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, SOS Mal de Seine or Brittany’s Anses fill bin-bags each week with bottle tops, cotton buds, food boxes, plastic bottles, fishing nets, ink cartridges, tampon applicators and cigarette butts.

In all, the United Nations estimates eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans each year and plastic makes up 80% of marine debris.

In one weekend, Sea-Mer volunteers picked up nine 100litre bags of rubbish from a 100m stretch of beach at Wimereux (Pas-de-Calais) left by what they call ‘homo-détritus’. The vast majority is from land sources, carried by the Seine and other rivers into the Channel. It ranges from kebab boxes and cotton buds to bottle tops and far too many used suppository bottles.

Once collected, the rubbish is sorted and ‘tracers’ or ‘lanceurs d’alertes’ are posted on the Wikidechets site at and which helps identify their origins, whether transatlantic or further.

The volunteers aim to give a picture of the rubbish dumped on France’s coasts, whether it is the cotton bud or tampon applicator flushed down the toilet or domestic waste from a container ship – and get the polluters to stop.

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