Coastwatch seeks condom and nappy levy


The plastic bag levy should be extended to condoms, sanitary pads, babies’ nappies, balloons, single-use cigarette lighters and other potential litter that’s harmful to wildlife, according to Coastwatch Ireland.

Director Karin Dubsky issued the call yesterday after presenting the results of this year’s Coastwatch survey by more than 400 volunteers to Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan. It covered a representative sample of 3 per cent of the coastline.

Across all coastal counties, Coastwatch volunteers found more than 18,000 drinks containers – an average of 45 for each 500m of shoreline. Plastic bottles were the most common, followed by aluminium cans, glass bottles and paper cartons.

To encourage reuse and recycling, Ms Dubsky called for a “deposit-on-return” regime for all drinks containers to “save resources, reduce carbon emissions, drastically reduce litter and create green jobs”.

Although sanitary waste has halved over the past 14 years, what remains is put down to a lack of sewage treatment as well as “courting spots”, localised pollution of streams and nappies buried by parents in sand subsequently dug out by the wind and sea.

But the survey showed that “large waste” items are way down, with dumped household refuse recorded on only 5 per cent of the shoreline – compared to 25 per cent in the first Coastwatch survey 25 years ago – and dead farm animals were not mentioned once.

“Long lines or heaps of abandoned shellfish farm trestles were noted in at least five locations – Dundalk Bay, Bannow Bay, Dungarvan harbour, Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle. This is a just a sample of a larger aquaculture waste problem around our shores.”

Several mobile phones were found during the latest survey, “something not yet invented when Coastwatch started in 1987”, while nearly half of all waste tyres were concentrated in Bannow Bay, Co Wexford, where they are used to catch peeler crabs.

Nitrate levels

Just over half of all tested streams flowing into the coastal zone had nitrate levels below detection – “a very encouraging result not achieved since 1993”, said Ms Dubsky.

The highest nitrate pollution levels were found in the Rush area of north Co Dublin.

“Observations on oil, tar and oiled birds show one of the biggest differences to survey results in the 1980s,” she noted. “In the first survey in 1987, 8.7 per cent of the survey units were reported to be polluted with oil. On this occasion, we had 0.5 per cent.”

Volunteers discovered rare habitats and species, including fresh patches of Zostera marina seagrass in tidal channels of Tramore’s backstrand in Co Waterford. But they also found some serious habitat damage, notably from a quarry on Lough Foyle.

Ms Dubsky said the survey had been done on a shoestring budget, with everyone involved working for free.