Clean up mud-polluted Southampton Chessel Bay nature reserve

A nature reserve in Southampton is one of the worst cases of microplastic pollution in the country, environmental campaigners have said.

Chessel Bay, on the banks of the River Itchen, has been defaced by millions of nurdles, plastic pellets washed ashore.

The site is cleaned up by the non-profit using its specially designed machinery.

A campaign by the local population to raise awareness of pollution follows.

The company and volunteers use specially designed vacuum cleaners to suck up and filter nurdles – tiny pellets used in the manufacture of plastic products – without causing damage to surrounding plants and habitats.’s Josh Beech said the site was being hit by a “devastating” amount of plastic pollution.

“It’s one of the worst areas we’ve seen in England and Wales,” he said.

The company estimates that more than 90 million pieces of plastic were collected in a five-day cleanup earlier this year.

The site is located on a bend in the river making it susceptible to the collection of airborne and tidal pollution.

A week-long cleanup, funded by the Environment Agency, is underway to suck up any debris that is being scattered or incorporated into the landscape.

The Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the east bank of the Itchen was designated Southampton’s first local nature reserve in 1989.

Katrina Ayling and other local residents raised the issue with the Environment Agency in 2019 when she described it as “choked” by nurdles.

She said: “I just cried and thought ‘I have to do something’.

“It’s sad – it’s Southampton’s first nature reserve and the only piece of natural coastline we have left. It should be loved and protected.

“We’re starting to see some results – it’s already looking better.”

Southampton City Council said it had been working for several years to “remove windblown debris” before a successful trial of’s equipment in 2021.

β€œThe removal of plastic from the coast has made a significant difference and will make it much easier to keep this section of the Chessel Bay Local Nature Reserve in favorable condition, while the Environment Agency continues to work with local businesses to to prevent plastic from ending up in the environment,” he added.

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