Tradition dictates that on the morning after our Independence Day celebrations, we meet on Brighton beach to collect litter.
A blast of fresh sea air helps clear groggy heads from the indulgences of the previous day, but there is something life-affirming about doing your little bit to help the environment.
Despite the finest efforts of the city’s cleaning department, the sheer volume of litter thrown away on the beach ensures that dustbin bags soon start to fill. Last June, the Brighton and Hove council cleaners collected a staggering 11 tonnes in a single day from the beach!
One emotion you inevitably feel is anger. Why are people are so selfish that they cannot be bothered to use a bin? A plastic bottle or drinks can left on the pebbles may not seem like a big deal, but the colossal volume of rubbish entering our seas and oceans is having a catastrophic impact on marine life.
Every day around 8 million pieces of plastic make their way into our oceans.
Sadly, beach litterers are not confined to a small minority of people.
A survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of Keep Britain Tidy, showed that almost one in five people admit to leaving rubbish behind at the beach, with 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds admitting to leaving litter behind after a visit to the beach.
Apparently the primary driver leading people to dump their rubbish at the beach was the fact that litter and rubbish was already present! It’s an unbelievable excuse. If someone else destroys our beaches with their crap, then I will do the same!
A company beach clean day is a great initiative, and we wholly recommend that other businesses introduce such a day into their calendar. But one day of litter-picking is not enough.
The way to protect our coastline is to help out regularly as well as ensure that we are never guilty of littering, the ultimate crime of laziness.
Harvey John Managing Director David Waddell has introduced beach cleaning as part of his daily routine. When out dog-walking in the morning, he always has his litter picker at hand to collect rubbish.
If we can all be vigilant, we can make our beaches, streets and parks far better places. Aside from improving the appearance of our local environment, we can help with a very serious problem.
One of the most active organisations for preserving our seas is Surfers against Sewage. Apart from the fact that surfing through faeces is not particularly pleasant, the group cares passionately for marine life.
They produce influential reports on the dangers caused by littering and discarded fishing equipment.
Their Marine Litter Report explained that: “Marine animals, from fish to dolphins, seabirds to seals, eat marine litter, mistaking plastic debris for food items - floating plastic bags for jellyfish, plastic nurdles (pellets) for fish eggs - which chokes them and blocks their digestive system, leading to starvation and death.”
It also highlighted the fact that plastics never completely break down and are having a hugely negative impact: “Plastics contain chemical additives, which when ingested, are introduced into the marine food web. These synthetic substances, such as phthalates and parabens, do not readily break down, and the toxins then biomagnify as they are transferred up the food chain as one species eats another.”
The scale of the problem is impossible to overstate. The following statistics give a flavour of the tragedy:
These are sobering statistics. You might think that a crisp packet or bottle top doesn’t matter too much but you will be contributing to this unprecedented assault on marine life.
Take your litter home - or even better, grab a litter picker and be part of the solution!