Is it the heat or have we all just lost it? Bournemouth, Brighton and Barry Island all hit the headlines as people who went to the beach left tonnes, literally tonnes of rubbish behind. It wasn’t just at these places either, with the heat people flocked to beaches all over the country, and bins overflowed and mountains of rubbish were left behind. In most places councils were on it, bins were emptied (at times with a little help and pressure from Dolly at 2 Minute Beach Clean), beaches were cleaned, but the most worrying thing is we as a nation/human race have it in our psyche that dropping rubbish on a beach is OK.
On Tuesday I was on one of the cleanest beaches I have been on for ages at Pakefield in Suffolk, I spent an afternoon gutting fish looking for plastic for the BBC along with CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) scientist/surfer Thomas, and BBC presenter David Whitley. It was really interesting being with scientists at the sharp end of things when it comes to marine plastic pollution. I realised that we have the exact same goals and our ideas for solutions are the same. Yes we need to get every bit of plastic out of the ocean, by whatever safe means we can, but more importantly the long term solution is a full scale change in the psychology of using plastic, especially single use plastics. It’s good to pick up, but the reality is that the only way to stop plastic is to change people’s attitude to using and disposing of it, and to move towards an economy that is both circular in its nature and doesn’t use as much of the stuff. We picked up a single straw on Pakefield beach, it had probably been used for under a minute, but would stay in the environment for hundreds of years. It just does not add up.
Finally, and this is a little contentious, is it right that we use images like this one to signify the end of a product? Innocent as it may be there is a subliminal message that when something is no longer useful we can chuck it in the sea.