As soon as the sun comes out in the UK, you can bet most of us will be heading to the coast to spend the day on the beach. In Britain, we are lucky to have easy access to miles of stunning coastline. But beaches and the ecosystems that they harbour are under threat, both in the UK and worldwide. Could you change your habits to help keep our beaches clean and see an improvement in the future?
Beaches aren’t nature’s dumping ground- they’re home to a variety of rare wildlife and their natural beauty needs to be preserved. Litter can build up on beaches through people leaving it after a day on the beach, and further litter is often swept in by the tide. But litter lying on the sand isn’t just unsightly- it can easily be swept back out to sea to cause a threat to thousands of different aquatic creatures.
Litter can harm wildlife in 2 main ways. Objects like carrier bags, netting, cans and plastic packaging can physically harm birds, fish and other animals by cutting, choking or causing internal damage when mistaken for food. Many items of litter also cause environmental damage through the chemicals they release into the sea. Cigarette butts are the worst litter for this, as a single butt is able to pollute 50L of water.
Some of the most commonly left litter takes decades to break down, making it an ongoing and dangerous problem for the world’s seas and beaches. Do you know how long that item of litter will spend damaging the environment?
Paper bags: 2-4 weeks
orange or banana peel: up to 2 years
cigarette butts: 1-5 years
carrier bags: 10-20 years
Coke and beer cans: 80 years
plastic bottles: 450 years
glass bottles: 1 million years
How can I make a difference?
If everyone changed their habits on the beach, we could start to see an improvement in the quality of sea water and beach cleanliness. You can help to make a difference during your day on the beach by:
Taking all of your own litter with you when leaving the beach
supporting businesses who provide reuseable containers, ie takeaways who provide plates rather than disposable boxes
reusing carrier bags or bags made from natural, biodegradable fibres
taking a pro active approach and picking up any litter you see on the beach
follow signs- many beaches don’t allow dogs, barbecues or bonfires, as they can all damage local wildlife and vegetation
More ways to support your local beach
If the protection of the UK’s beaches and their wildlife is important to you, there are other ways you can get involved with promoting cleaner beaches and better water quality, making them a safer place for both wildlife and people.
Join in on a beach clean up day
Many groups run in coastal locations where volunteers go out to clean litter from beaches. This is especially needed in popular tourist destinations such as the South West, and after larger scale beach events. Volunteering on clean up days is a rewarding experience which lets you play a part in minimizing environmental damage and keep our beaches clean.
Support beach restoration projects
Beaches don’t just need help to stay litter-free. Many beaches around the country require conservation work to restore local plants and protect from erosion. This helps to restore the beach’s natural beauty whilst ensuring a more protective environment for local wildlife.
Encourage local businesses to get involved
Shops and takeaways near to beaches have one of the largest influences over their cleanliness. If local takeaways are still serving food in disposable, polystyrene boxes, ask them why they haven’t switched to a more environmentally friendly method. Encouraging local shops to switch to reusable fabric bags over plastic ones is also an effective way of getting waste plastic off our beaches.
Support local organizations
Working with others to protect your local beach is one of the best ways to get your voice heard. Many groups exist around the country who work together to actively pick up litter from beaches as well as to apply pressure on local MPs to make changes to benefit the local environment.
Support clean up operations after chemical and oil spills
Cleaning up coastline after chemical or oil spills is considered too dangerous for ordinary citizens to join in with. However, these organizations always need funds and donations of items. Supporting these will help to ensure quicker and more efficient clean ups whenever an oil spill or other disaster threatens to cause long term damage.tagsclean beachesethical travelseasonalsummerUK coastline