Plastic bottles and industrial fridges are just some of the many items of rubbish that get washed up at the Newport Wetlands. BECKY CARR went to help Natural Resources Wales to clean up.

BEFORE you throw that plastic bottle on the floor, think about where it will end up and who will have to pick it up after you.

That's the message of the volunteers helping Natural Resources Wales to clean up the Newport Wetlands on a sunny morning in August.

I went along to one of two clean up days held this month to find out more about the staff whose job it is and the volunteers who give up their free time to get rid of the rubbish that gets washed up in the city's reserve.

The Newport Wetlands are owned and managed by Natural Resources Wales who work in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Cymru and Newport City Council.

Wetlands help to prevent flooding by holding water like a sponge, keeping river levels normal.

Reserve manager Kevin Dupé has the job of making sure the wetlands are looked after as they provide an essential habitat for wildlife, particularly wild birds.

Mr Dupé said that clean up days are not typical for his working week, which usually involves lots of monitoring and testing.

On the first of two clean up days, staff from waste management and recycling specialists Biffa, RSPB and Keep Tidy Wales were lending a hand.

Biffa staff said that getting out of the office was a treat so they were happy to help and Keep Tidy Wales provided the all important bin bags and litter-pickers for the day.

Volunteers from across South Wales also responded to a call for help.

In our different shades of hi-vis jackets, the group of about 40 people took a walk to the banks of a stream to begin to tackle the massive amounts of rubbish brought in by the storm surge in early January.

Mr Dupé said that clean up operations can only really be done in March and August to avoid nesting birds.

With my gloves on and a bin bag and litter picker in hand, I set to work.

Litter could be seen all over the stream's banks, from large items such as tyres to tiny pieces of brightly-coloured plastic.

The most common item that I found myself picking up over and over again was, quite unexpectedly, lollipop sticks - hundreds of lollipop sticks.

During the briefing beforehand, volunteers and staff were told to not just focus on the big things as often little bits of rubbish cause the most damage to wildlife as they could swallow them.

Plastic bags and bottles were common as well as sweet wrappers and broken up pieces of plastic.

One of the items rescued from the shoreline was an industrial fridge with a weight inside.

Mr Dupé said a ship probably threw it overboard and hoped it would sink. He added that unfortunately nothing can be done to trace such an item which has probably been washed up in the wetlands for about 20 years.

Volunteer coastal guardsTed Tipper and wife Sue were among those who responded to a call to help for the day.

Mr Tipper, of Portskewett, said: "We got involved in being volunteer coastal guards as we just saw lots of rubbish around and said 'come on let's do something'. Since we've been doing it, people have become more aware and there's less rubbish.

"Natural Resources Wales and Keep Wales Tidy run these throughout Wales and they ask if you want to come along. I get exercise, I get outside. I enjoy being down by the sea and we're helping the environment."

Another volunteer Sam Willets, 23, said he was helping out at the wetlands in a bid to find a job.

Mr Willets, of Cwmbran, said he had just graduated fromAberystwyth University.

He said: "I was looking for anything I could get. I came down to the Newport Wetlands and enquired on the visitor centre about volunteering. They took in my CV and gave me Kevin's number. I'm going to try and help out weekly

"Since I was a kid I've had a passion for the outdoors. I just wanted to work outside. It'll be a good career for me to help conserve the environment."

Mr Willets and I found ourselves to be significantly younger than the other volunteers. When I asked him why he thought that was, he said: "A lot of volunteer groups are made up of retired people. I can't really put my finger on why. It's possibly because of a lot of young people coming out of university and you want to stand on your own two feet, it's quite difficult to do.

"You want to get a paid job but with most jobs you have to get experience first."

The workers were impressive with many maintaining a good pace throughout the morning. Bin bags were having to be re-used because many of them were working faster than the rubbish could be taken away, probably due to the promise of a pint in the nearby pub at the end of the day.

The reserve, including the RSPB Environmental Education and Visitor Centre, is open every day from 9am to 5pm.