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Volunteers battle to clear West Country beaches of plastics following storms

Volunteers have been out in force every day trying to clear the rubbish exposed by the storms. Credit: ITV News West Country

Storms Ciara and Dennis have wreaked havoc on homes, businesses, roads and schools, but they have also left their mark on the coastline.

The seas, which are so full of plastic waste, have coughed up their toxic bounty onto Devon and Cornwall's beaches.

Teams of volunteers have been out in force, daily, trying to clear up the mess.

All the the flotsam and jetsam has either been tossed ashore or been unearthed by constantly shifting sands.

Micro plastics have been exposed by the storms. Credit: ITV News West Country

Tiny pieces of plastic, previously buried and hidden beneath the beach surface or settled on the ocean floor, have now been exposed.

But the process of collecting these micro plastics has been fraught with difficulty.

Powerful waves have been sweeping much of it back out to sea before human hands can gather it up.

Volunteers have been battling the elements to clear plastic in Bude. Credit: ITV West Country

You come down after a really stormy day and expect to see the beach completely covered and, unfortunately it's really frustrating because the tide has taken all the plastic back out again.

– Deb Rosser, Crooklets Recycling & Picking Group
Many of the biggest items are hard plastics, which have been out in the ocean for a long time. Credit: ITV News West Country

Some of the larger, uglier, plastic items remain.

Like these coiled pipes, found on Westward Ho!, which have been traced to a container that came off a cargo ship during the storms.

The company responsible for these coils has pledged to collect and recycle them. Credit: Angela Daniels

East Devon District Council has underlined the importance of local authorities and people working together to clean the beaches.

It's down to pride. I think the public are very proud of their beaches and more and more are coming around to the idea that, actually, it's quite a nice and pleasant activity to do for the local community.

– Nick Christo, East Devon District Council

WILDLIFE HAS BEEN BADLY AFFECTED TOO

The churned-up micro plastics are not only a blight on the region's beaches but they also harm the region's birds and mammals.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is concerned that already vulnerable, orphaned pups could swallow it when they are released back into the wild.

The storms have wrenched several young seals from their mothers and washed them up on the beach before the pups have been weaned off their milk.

Tess is just one of the orphaned seal ups to have been taken in by the Cornish Seal Sanctuary after the storms. Credit: ITV News West Country

Three seals have come in with broken jaws from getting bashed up against rocks in the storms, which is obviously horrible to see.

And it does usually mean that they get put to sleep, unfortunately, if the vet feels he can't really do much.

– Zoe Morris, Cornish Seal Sanctuary
A trio of orphaned seals at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. Credit: ITV News West Country