Why Is It Important To Keep Beaches Clean?
The Great British Beach Clean (15th-24th September 2023) is a week-long annual event where hundreds of beach cleans take place across the country. Today, we're taking a look back at our beach clean on Greatstone Beach with Litter Picking Watch New Romney.
What Can We Do To Save Our Beaches?
We love going to the beach! Beaches are an important part of life and yet beach and ocean pollution is a growing problem. Did you know that 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in the sea every year?
Around 80% of ocean litter comes from in-land and the plastic pollution of our oceans and beaches affects things such as:
- The economy - a badly maintained beach means fewer visitors and tourists during the peak seasons
- Marine animals - sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals are harmed by items such as plastic packaging and aluminium tin cans due to pollution
- Sea habitats - pollution is causing coral reefs to be whitened and destroying the homes of many fish and other organisms
Beach cleans are a great way to help combat plastic pollution. To find out more, we chatted to Christopher McAuley, Romney Marsh’s Litter Pick Watch Coordinator, about all things rubbish!
Why should we do a litter pick?
“Local councils are responsible for emptying litter bins and for removing litter in public open spaces. Unfortunately, littering is a 24/7 issue and even though council waste teams will empty bins and pick litter once a day (three times daily during busy periods), the littering continues,” explains Christopher.
“When busy, the bins get full and overwhelmed. Often, rubbish surrounding the bins will be ripped open by the wildlife and spread around. Picnicking beachgoers also tend to drop their litter or leave it behind, which sadly ends up polluting the world's oceans. This is why I and others volunteer as litter pickers.”
“We are not there to replace the council waste teams who remove huge quantities of rubbish across our region. Instead, what we do as volunteers is remove the discarded litter from our beaches and local communities, improving the appearance of where we live. We regularly share our litter-picking exploits and local litter-picking events on our Facebook page,” Christopher says.
What equipment do I need?
Wondering what to take with you to a beach clean? Here are Christopher’s top suggestions:
- Take a friend/adult to accompany you (or you could join a local volunteer litter picking group)
- Wear gloves
- Take a litter picker
- Wear a high vis vest or colourful top
- Wear suitable footwear
- Bring a carrier bag or rubbish bag to put the litter in - young litter pickers could even use a silicone bucket to collect their rubbish (it’s easy to clean afterwards, too)
What are your top litter picking tips?
Now you’ve got your equipment, it’s time to get litter picking! Christopher says to make sure that you:
- Always use gloves and litter pickers
- Don’t let children pick alone
- Don't make your rubbish bag too heavy
- Put your litter into a litter bin (if there's no space, there should be more bins nearby)
- Don’t litter pick on the roads
- Don’t confront someone who's dropped litter
- Have fun knowing that you are making a difference
- Top tip: If you’re familiar with your local recycling plant, you can separate the recyclables (cans, plastics etc) and take them there directly
Things to avoid
- Sharp objects
- Dog poo bags
- Broken glass
- Anything dirty or dangerous
- Bottles of liquid
- Heavy rubbish
Where does the litter go afterwards?
Wondering where your rubbish goes after you’ve collected it? Christopher explains all.
“If you place your litter in a litter bin the council waste team will empty all the contents into the waste truck. This will then go to the waste recycling centre; only so much sorting can take place with plastic and cans being removed (these will be washed before being upcycled) with the rest going into generating green energy or unfortunately landfill.”
“This is why it's better for everyone to take their litter home with them and recycle the litter in their home bins as new materials can be created via recycling.”
How can we encourage kids to litter pick?
“When children are shown the damage discarded litter can do to their local environment and wildlife, this raises their awareness. The question we put to them is how can we encourage people not to drop litter?”
“Firstly, if you take your litter home with you and recycle it in your recycle bin, your litter will not be damaging the environment. Secondly, encourage your family and friends to do the same. As the message spreads, it will reduce the discarded litter from our beaches and local communities. More importantly, the litter will be separated and recycled, saving the Earth’s resources,” says Christopher.
Coastal Clean Up: The Railway Kind
What better way to teach your children about the importance of litter picking than through play? Coastal Clean Up is ‘shore’ to delight little ones and inspire them to dispose of beach litter responsibly.
Once busy hands have chugged the train round the track, they can recycle the magnetic pieces of rubbish on the sand into the correct cardboard, metal and plastic sorting bins - just like they would on a real-life litter pick.