Our beautiful beach is the shop window to our city and must be protected.

The wise words from Councillor Brian Fitch, Brighton and Hove’s new mayor, represent the unanimous voice of city residents, traders and politicians alike.

The need to preserve our environment and keep our seafront tidy has been the catalyst for the return of this newspaper’s Big Beach Clean-up campaign.

On May 27 we hope hundreds of volunteers will join us on Brighton beach for a two-hour clean-up operation designed to encourage people to take their rubbish home after enjoying the delights of our famous coastline.

After the success of last year’s campaign, which saw an army of more than 200 volunteers don high-vis jackets and arm themselves with litter pickers during a blustery morning on the beach, The Argus is calling on local businesses and individuals to make this year’s clean-up an even bigger triumph.

And Mayor Fitch is backing our bid to keep Brighton tidy.

He said: “It’s fantastic that The Argus is promoting this once again and it’s a superb voluntary effort that involves all walks of life.

“Dare I say it, a little bit of manual work will help keep everyone fit. But joking aside and more importantly, the seafront is the prime reason why people come to Brighton and Hove.

“We have fantastic beach with the sea on our doorstep which we must look after.

“Our reputation is always enhanced when we have a clean seafront, so I would call on everyone who can spare the time to make their way down to the clean-up on May 27.”

Our city thrives on tourism and when the sun is shining, our beach proves to be one of the most popular destinations for people to enjoy.

But when visitors to our shingled seafront make their way home, shocking figures show not everybody takes their rubbish with them.

In July last year it was estimated the city welcomed more than 50,000 visitors over a two-week period - who left behind a total of 21 tonnes of rubbish.

Nappies, cigarette packets, empty beer cans and wine bottles, old barbeques, toys, plastic bags and much more were collected by dedicated volunteers.

The Argus photographers found glass bottles, plastic bags, food packets and cardboard strewn across the beach early on Sunday morning – before the council’s efficient staff cleaned up so visitors could enjoy another busy day basking in the sunshine.

But apart from ruining one of the country’s most lauded tourist hotspots, litter bugs present a huge threat to wildlife too.

Staff from the Sea Life Centre have warned against leaving plastic bags near the sea over fears they could affect migrating turtle populations which may mistake them for jellyfish.

A spokeswoman for the Marine Conservation Society added: “The hot weather is glorious and we all want to be taking advantage of it – but not on beaches full of rubbish.

“Animals often get tangled in litter or get caught in beer cans, for example. It doesn’t just affect tourism, it harms our wildlife.”

Adam Chinery, of Brighton Watersports in Kings Road Arches, said staff at his business regularly paddle out to sea to collect bags of rubbish left by beachgoers.

He said: “We got involved last year and thought it was a really positive campaign, so we will be back on May 27.

“I think the problem is a lot of people don’t realise that the tide comes in and out, which takes rubbish into the sea in the process.

“They think there’s lots of beach cleaners around which, despite the council guys doing a great job with the resources, there isn’t.

“We have to wear shoes when we go out to the beach and sea because there’s always so much broken glass around.

“I come from New Zealand where generally people clean up after themselves so the mentality of people who just leave the rubbish on the beach, who mostly don’t come from Brighton, is a shame.

“The amount of stuff we pick up when we’re out at sea is shocking.

“We take bags with us and paddle around and pick up anything from bottles and cans to chip boxes.”

So far staff from the likes of Legal and General and Southern Water as well as Jason Kitcat, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, have committed to the clean-up cause.

Jessica Lilly Martin and Lev Eakins, representing Brighton’s Liberal Democrats, will be among the army of volunteers cleaning Brighton beach.

Jessica said: “I'm very proud of our city and keeping our beaches clean and tidy is something we should all take pride in."

Lev added: “We’re really pleased The Argus has taken a lead on this and we’re happy to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in.”

Swim Trek, which organises open water swimming events on Brighton Beach, will also be sending a team of volunteers.

Mark Burgess, marketing and events manager, said: “The beach and the sea are really valuable resources that we get so much enjoyment from so we’re happy to be involved.

“As regular swimmers in the sea we’re aware of all the damage that litter and pollution can cause so it’s great to be involved in something will help the community.”

Students from the University of Brighton will also be swapping their study books for black bin bags.

Beth Thomas-Hancock, volunteering manager at the University of Brighton, said: “We have student volunteers who take part in projects all over the city and are always keen to get involved in projects that will help Brighton.”

At last year’s Big Beach Clean-up, volunteers collected enough rubbish to fill half of a Cityclean refuse vehicle With a reasonable task ahead of them, volunteers at this year’s clean will be given a wake-up gift thanks to a local cafe.

Andy Cheeseman, owner of Buddies in Kings Road, is offering all Big Beach Clean-up volunteers a free breakfast.

Mr Cheeseman said: “We’re offering a free bacon sarnie for people who want to come in here before the clean-up.

“We’ll even do some egg sarnies for vegetarians.”

The Big Beach Clean-up will be the start of the City Makers initiative led by The Argus, which is inviting readers to come up with other projects for vol- unteers to help with.

Anyone is welcome to take part in the clean-up, which will take place from 8.30am until 10.30am and start from the Palace Pier on May 27.