Cleaning Ballywalter South Beach
Once again we returned to Ballywalter Beach for Operation Clean Up. In our last two trips to this part of the peninsula we removed heaps of litter, including tires, fishing nets, oyster cages and many other large and unsightly items.
This time proved no different we met up with 12 volunteers and within 2 hours we had removed 12 bags of litter and waste from the beach along with a tire and two wheels from a boat trailer.
The complete haul from Ballywalter
Some of the amazing volunteers making sure that every bit of micro plastic was removed from the seaweed and oncoming tide.
This clean up took us to 50 bags of litter removed from just Ballywalter beach alone and more than 350 bags of litter removed from coastal areas across Northern Ireland in the last 9 months as part of operation clean up. Thinking back after the event yesterday I saw a few things I wanted to point out about the things we are finding on beaches.
Each beach has its own almost unique footprint, sea park and Helen's Bay had more tourist related litter and wet wipes, the beaches along the peninsula like Ballywalter had larger items and lots of fishing gear. But there are items we find at every clean up.
1. Plastic bottles
2. Bottle lids
3. Broken glass
4. Plastic cotton bud sticks
6. Cigarette butts
Lets think about the items on this list. First of you notice that all of them are completely unnecessary and easy to remove form your daily life. Plastic bottles can be easily removed completely by using a reusable cup or water bottle, which would also reduce the second item, bottle tops. Bottles tops are usually more common finds as they are made of a different plastic from the bottle itself and float, not to mention that the bottles without lids fill with water and sink to the bottom of the ocean meaning they will never be removed in that form, but will break down over hundreds of years into micro plastics. If you can't get in in a reusable bottle (such as fizzy drinks etc) then just recycle the bottle, its never been easier to do so with the councils all across the country picking it up from your door every fortnight.
The broken glass is not only a hazard to marine life but a severe risk to all who frequent the beach, including dogs. Its again super easy to remove by just taking it home or recycling it.
The plastic cotton bud sticks are again easy to manage firstly, stop flushing them down the toilet, and secondly stop buying plastic buds switch to paper and it means they will completely biodegrade in a few months not a few centuries. We covered this issue more in a recent blog post (HERE)
Straws are another easy swap, and it is great to see so many places starting to ban or swap them for more environmentally friendly options such as stainless steel or paper straws. The stainless steel ones are great and cheap and you can just wash them after use and re-use them for ever, so you can still enjoy your ice cold drink or fresh smoothie by straw if you so please.
Finally the cigarette butts are everywhere, on every beach and every street nation wide. I understand that cigarette smoking is a very hard addiction to kick, but it would be so much better not just for the environment, but for yourself if you tried to quit. At Ballywlater beach alone I personally removed 77 from the car park area and found many more on the sand and seaweed, the same can be said for ballyholme, helens bay and the lagan towpath. They take decades to break down and leach so many harmful chemicals into the water and ocean that can spread as far as 200 meteres away from the original butt.
i short many of the items we find on beaches are not only unnecessary in our lives but can be easily swapped, removed or recycled. Lets all try to make a big effort to change the way we look at our waste, the health of the oceans depends on it.