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Neptune's Army of Rubbish Collectors

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Rachel Treadaway-Williams Rachel Treadaway-Williams | 17:20 UK time, Monday, 11 October 2010

Not a lot of people will know this but litter is a subject quite close to my heart and Pembrokeshire even more so, so I was looking forward to spending the day with Neptune's Army of Rubbish Collectors (NARC for short).

Image of an underwater pushbike

We picked a glorious day for it, and on the surface the scene at Hobbs Point (part of the coastline between Milford Haven and Pembroke) was a fairly neat and clean one. But it's what’s hidden in the depths that bothers the members of NARC.

The first member of the team that I met was chairman Dave Kennard. He formed NARC five years ago after witnessing first-hand the damage that litter can do on the sea bed. I asked him what we might find lurking below. It seemed that pushbikes, scooters and skateboards were pretty common. Added to that fishing debris, nets, weights and the like. They’d even dragged a kitchen sink out of the sea on a previous dive. I can’t imagine why anyone would go to the effort of bringing a kitchen sink to the water’s edge when they could just take it to the tip?

Prepping his kit before heading underwater I found diver Mark Jones. I was surprised to find out that Mark had travelled from Church Village to take part in the dive because of his concern for the environment. He also said that it was a satisfying way to spend an afternoon and I started to get a feel for that.

Mark was not the only one who got a buzz from doing his bit. By the time the divers were ready to head in, on-shore support had arrived as well as two boats manned by the Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS). Dave explained that once they’d found an object they would attach a balloon-like lifting bag to it. Once inflated the object would float to the surface where it would be recovered by the boats and then handed to the on-shore team on land.

I took my place on the slipway edge. I’m not even sure five minutes had passed when the first balloon popped up. It was quite exciting wondering what on earth would be attached. I did ask one of the on-shore crew if they had ever found anything valuable and if so, had they been able to keep it. If they had, they weren’t telling.

First out was a bike, then after that a steady stream of metallic junk including a satellite dish and lobster pot, oh…and a scooter! (Apparently there is always a scooter.) As it arrived on shore it was clear that the bike also came with its very own commercial fishing net in tow and tangled in the debris were a number of crabs - a pretty depressing sight. But there was a silver lining - as we cut one crab away it moved so somehow it had survived.

I also got a taste of the action on board one of the MVS’s boats. They have no idea what they are going to be dragging out of the water until they put their hands on it. But even as we dragged out the next find we were still puzzled. It wasn’t until we discovered some kind of drive on it that the penny dropped – it was a computer! Why on earth would you chuck a computer over the edge? I could only presume that the person who did the chucking was extremely security conscious. John favoured ‘extremely lazy’. He told me that the tip was literally within a matter of miles.

It turned out to be a successful day clearing the sea bed. Added to the heap was a lawnmower, three skateboards, two halloween masks, one pair of sunglasses and a boat trailer wheel. Oh, and two pint glasses that diver Ed was going to take home and clean up. Now that’s what you call recycling. The items are recorded and the team tell me if they can’t be re-used then they are deposited where they should have been found in the first place, the local tip.

I headed home for a well-earned cuppa, smug in the knowledge that a small patch of the Pembrokeshire coastline was that bit cleaner because of our afternoon’s activity.


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