COASTAL CLEAN-UP The only way to tackle coastal litter is for us all to make regular efforts to remove all the rubbish we can, even if we are not personally responsible for it.
We live closer to the sea now than I ever have, and although we are not overlooking it, we can be there very quickly when we need a fix of sea air, sand and rolling waters. It’s such a different facet of nature from the deciduous forests and fields growing up in Kentucky. Unfortunately, there is one similarity – the impact of human activity on all our landscapes worldwide.
We are all acutely aware of the way the sight of waste can instantly spoil our enjoyment of nature, and the sad reality is that the only way to fix it is for us all to make efforts on a regular basis to remove all the rubbish we can, even if we are not personally responsible for it. There are not enough public resources to deal with the constant tide of daily litter, debris washed up from boats or distant shores, or dumping of waste in isolated locations.
Popular beaches are usually better looked after, and may have bins that are emptied by the council, but more remote beaches are often full of years of rubbish that might be less noticeable until you start to move stones and notice the ghost rope, plastic shards and other bits that have accumulated there.
We recently joined friends who organised a clean-up of a more remote beach, and worked for a couple of hours before picnicking and enjoying the water, and several of us are keen to repeat that on a regular basis.
The main principle is to not leave a trace of our visits to any location. We should avoid single use items in the first place, and then take all of our materials away with us to dispose of them properly afterwards—if we can carry the full items in, we can definitely pack the empty ones out!
We’re now including a ‘waste pack’ in our gear for days out at the beach, Greenway or other natural sites. Gloves are necessary to prevent cuts from broken objects or just to avoid touching icky things—gardening or natural rubber gloves work well. Bags of any type, whether a reusable cotton bag that can be washed after the rubbish is collected and sorted into bins, or reused plastic bags for larger amounts that can then be taken to a collection point. Litter pickers can be helpful for children or people who have trouble bending down.
You can sign up for a small kit to start beach or street cleaning via the Clean Coasts website (cleancoasts.org), as part of their #2minutebeachclean campaign. Post a photo of what you’ve collected to social media, and participate in their ‘Love Your Coast’ photo competition, which accepts submissions through August 30.
Sharon Cameron is the Environment Awareness Officer for Mayo, and she posts great information on ‘Greening Mayo’ on Facebook.
Flossie and The Beach Cleaners are a group active on the Dublin coast, and they have online resources for kids and schools, including ideas for using plastics found on beaches.
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.