When you are out enjoying the beach this summer (or any outdoor space for that matter) there’s a very simple habit you can adopt that will add up to make a big difference towards tackling marine litter, and plastic pollution in the sea. Simply decide that anytime you are outside enjoying nature, you’ll give something back by spending 2 minutes picking up litter at some point during your visit.
Litter picking is important wherever you are, but it is especially vital near waterways and on beaches, to help stem the flow of plastic waste making its way to the sea. You may have seen pictures of turtles with plastic straws stuck in their noses, or marine bird carcases filled with bottle tops and other small pieces of plastic. The truth is that our society’s addiction to throw-away plastic is causing massive problems downstream – for the marine birds and wildlife who get entangled, choke or starve, for the fish that eat the tiny plastic particle, and for us as the toxins enter our food chain.
However, instead of feeling bad about this situation, why not take some positive action to make it better? Beach, river and other outdoor clean-ups have been proven to be the most effective way to reduce plastic pollution in the sea. In fact, the sea even helps us with this job, by helpfully washing up the litter on the beaches ready for us to pick up!
Beach cleaning itself is a wonderful, healthy and often fun activity that has recently been shown to be valuable not just for the environment, but for the beach cleaners themselves too. A recent study entitled Can Beach Cleans Do More Than Clean-Up Litter? Comparing Beach Cleans to Other Coastal Activities led by Dr Kayleigh Wyles at Plymouth University found that volunteers actually enjoyed participating in clean-ups even more than other coastal activities – learning something new, and doing something meaningful to help the environment.
Meanwhile, Professor Richard Thompson, Professor of Marine Biology at Plymouth University and an internationally renowned expert on marine litter, said: “There is no one answer to solving the problem of marine litter, but the public are absolutely key – we all use plastics in our everyday lives so small changes in behaviour by a lot of people can have a huge effect. The challenge is to reverse some 60 years of training for the throwaway society we live in today, lessening the environmental and societal impacts of marine litter, and initiatives such as beach cleans can play a big role in increasing awareness of the problems and potential solutions.”
So how do you start? It’s best to try to remember to always carry a bag (and some gardening gloves if you prefer) that you use for collecting litter, and if there are no secure bins in the vicinity, be prepared to take it home to dispose of properly. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands after litter picking, and of course, you must always supervise children, and avoid picking up any sharps or un-bagged poos.
Litter has a habit of coming back, so the most effective approach is to commit to regular, light litter picking rather than occasional blitzes. Perhaps you could choose a favourite outdoor spot that you will regularly clean up, or simply say that you will spend 2 minutes of every outdoor trip picking up litter and making the world a better place.
If you need some extra motivation, check out the amazing Cornwall-based #2minutebeachclean who are working hard to inspire and mobilise people around the world to take just 2 minutes out of their day to do something great, and remove plastic from their beaches. Join their community and post pictures of your beach cleans on social media to spread the word about the benefits of beach cleans and encourage others to take positive action against marine litter too.
#2minutebeachclean #Binit4beaches #Take3forthesea #DoSomethingGreat