www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Rubbish found on the beach

Rubbish found on beach in St Leonards: Photo by Zelly Restorick

How degrading!

Meandering along the beach the other day, HOT’s Zelly Restorick, came across an interesting poster from the British Marine Foundation and the Royal Yachting Association. Headed ‘How degrading!’, it shows how many years some common items of rubbish take to bio-degrade in the water.

Did you realise that some of our rubbish will be here on the planet longer than we will be ourselves? Doesn’t that seem a mind-blowing concept, if you really think about it? The plastic bottle you drink out of today, will be around to see what happens in the next few hundred years, long after your own demise.

Here’s some examples to ponder: it’ll take 600–700 years to breakdown Kevlar rope, fishing line and glass bottles, plastic bags will take 500 years, plastic bottles 450 years, drink cans and polystyrene cups around a 100 years, cigarette butts 3-5 years, 2 years for orange peel and 6 months for an apple core.

Luckily, it is still only a minority of people who are thoughtless about discarding their rubbish in our natural areas. Not like in other lands, where their once pristine and beautiful shores are now covered in a blanket of debris and detritus.

When I see plastic bags and the like fluttering along the beach, it disturbs my eyes. I find it hard to walk past and often feel conscience-driven to stop and pick it up. Not only is it aesthetically displeasing to the eye, it’s a death trap for some non-human creatures who get entangled in it. After all, those with wings, multiples of tiny legs, fins, paws, flippers and feet are not able to pick it up themselves – and it is my own species’ rubbish.

Since moving to the coast over a decade ago, my friend and I, armed with our trusty litter-picker-uppers and recycled plastic bags, have collected skip loads of rubbish. On one occasion, we picked up 12 sacks of post party discarded trash at Rock A’ Nore beach and earlier this year, 9 bags further along the coast at Fairlight Cove. If you take a look, there’s always something to pick up.

Bottle caps, plastic bags, footwear, fishing wire and netting, cans, bottles, can rings, food packaging, sanitary items, rusty metal, lead weights, fishing hooks, cigarette ends, polystyrene packaging, straws, shot gun cartridges, fast food outlet packaging, clothing, nappies, dog excrement bags and dog excrement, BBQ sets, oil canisters, heavy duty rubber gloves…

Not a lot of beachcombing treasure amongst this collection of items.

They represent to me, a lack of thought and care by some of the visitors who enjoy these beautiful natural places.  But then I think about the people who are doing it and wonder if maybe they don’t feel cared for or thought about? Maybe they don’t even know how to care for themselves, as they have never been cared for? And if you are unable to care for yourself, are you able to care about your surroundings?

Or maybe they don’t find it disturbing? Maybe they see the beach or natural spaces as a place to dump their waste product, whatever that may be, whatever volume? Let’s not just think about individuals with drink cans and crisp packets, what about the businesses and organisations around the world who have polluted – and are still polluting – the seas with their toxins and poisons, not thinking of long-term consequences.  I guess they see the ocean as a large rubbish dump and a way to escape the costs of disposing of their waste products safely and with care?

And what about all the discarded fishing wire, lethal metal hooks, lead weights and netting on the beach?  This puzzles me.  Possibly naively, I imagine that the fisher folk would be the first to be looking after the sea, which is after all the source of their livelihoods or supper.

My friend and I are not alone. We often cross paths with others, armed with litter pickers and bags, who also care.  And the Hastings Borough Council play their part in clearing up too, although only in certain areas and with different levels of clear-up, depending on the season. So if you come across an area that needs clearing, tell the council. And if they are unable to do it, [although mostly they are willing and able, if told], then why not pick it up yourself? Especially in areas which the Council infrequently – or never – reaches.

Pause for a moment and think about the main reason many of us are here in Hastings and St Leonards, whether as a resident or a passing through visitor? Might ‘being at the seaside’ appear on everyone’s ‘Top 3 List’?

A place to play, prostrate oneself, pay homage to the sun, picnic, promenade, ponder, pow-wow, paddle, peel-off, party, perspire, parasail, pause, pebble-pick, percuss, pray, parler, pedal, perambulate – and lots of other activities which don’t begin with the letter’p’’! Free to all, regardless of which variety of humankind we are. The beach and the sea fulfil a multiple of our needs with no need to pay a penny.

Let us all treasure its blessings and look after it – for our selves, for future generations and for all the other species we share it with, for whom it is a home.

More info at The Green Blue website – making the environment second nature.

 

 

 

Posted 14:33 Monday, Aug 13, 2012 In: Green Times

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