Volunteers are taking to Ballyloughane beach in Galway to clean the shorelines for Climate Action Week 2022.
Participants will spend two hours on October 14 clearing marine litter as part of a nationwide initiative to expand public awareness and participation in taking responsibility for the environment.
Clean Coasts Development Officer Dara Dever explained the positive impact beach cleans have on the public attitude toward littering: “It’s an eye-opening experience, and you can’t unsee it.”
“You mightn’t notice some of the litter when you’re just going for a normal walk, but when you’re actually looking for it, it’s quite interesting to see what you will find,” Mr Dever continued.
Some of the most common marine debris found along the coasts includes plastic bottles, crisp packets and cigarette butts. Mr Dever noted the latter as “probably one of the most, if not the most common thing that you will find“.
Small steps, big impact
Even if it may not be feasible for everyone to spend two hours cleaning the beach, a lot can be accomplished in a short time, according to Mr Dever.
He suggests that people should get into the habit of picking up and disposing of litter when out in their local environment. Even taking just two minutes out of your walk could make a difference.
“It’s a really positive experience,” he said. “You’ve gone out and enjoyed the outdoors and nature, but you’ve also made a positive impact on your environment.”
He also highlighted how the pandemic has improved the relationship between people and the environment. “When people were confined to their 2k and 5k, there was a newfound appreciation for what is on your doorstep.”
Mr Dever went on to explain that this renewed sense of pride in the environment is contributing to better-kept outdoor spaces.
“People are proud of where they are from and want to mind it, and I think that is having a positive impact on the environment.“
When speaking to volunteers who carried out beach cleans in Galway the previous year, he also found that the state of beaches “seems to be getting better, from anecdotal evidence.”
The Big Beach Clean
Over 500 coastal cleaning events have been organised throughout Ireland this year as part of The Big Beach Clean 2022. Volunteers saw the removal of more than 63 tonnes of marine litter from coasts across the country.
In Galway, The Big Beach Clean took place in coastal areas in the city and county including Grattan beach, Rusheen bay and Spiddal.
Mr Dever commented on how marine debris in Ireland differs from other countries: “We don’t find as many plastic bags as other countries, and we see the reason for this being that we charge for plastic bags.”
In the past, plastic bags would have been common to find during clean-ups. Mr Dever sees the reduced occurrence of plastic bag waste as a sign that “we are going in the right direction”.
As part of this campaign, volunteers were also asked to fill out marine litter data collection cards. These surveys aim to quantify the amount and the most common types of litter to wash up on Irish shores.
This data will then be used to spread awareness as to the extent of the marine debris issue in order to inform future campaigns and policies to reduce coastal waste.
To find out more about the upcoming Ballyloughane beach clean, click here.