Nuisance littering taking heavy toll on our beauty spots
Seven things we can do that can make a difference and perserve a pristine countryside
Volunteers at the National Coasts Big Beach Clean at Inch Beach, east Cork Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Early-morning sea swimmers will be familiar with the pure serenity it brings. And here in Ireland we are fortunate enough to have a plethora of world-class sea-swimming spots, many frequented by hardy dippers and swimmers on a daily basis throughout the year.
However, come summer, the natural beauty of these spots is jeopardised. While I am all for people getting out there and making the most of our country’s glorious assets, the aftermath is nothing short of infuriating. Towels, cans, bottles, nappies – you name it – are left abandoned without a second thought.
The Forty Foot in Dublin’s Sandycove, one of Ireland’s most famous swimming spots, has seen a huge rise in littering over the past few months. We dread to think about what state it would be in if it weren’t for the work of Clean Coasts volunteers every day.
One member says their group of five volunteers collected and laundered 110 towels in June alone. Shoes, clothing (socks especially), and even the odd duvet are left by the shore. She also has to deal with sanitary products and faeces – a problem she blames in part on sheer laziness but mainly due to the lack of public facilities.
These problems are not limited to the coastline either. The Pure Mile environmental project, established to combat the increase of illegal dumping in the Wicklow-Dublin upland areas, has collected more than 2,000 bags of litter so far this year. There have also been reports of people leaving tents, camping chairs, BBQs and much more, abandoned in the middle of the countryside.
And while I am not naive in thinking that these problems can be solved overnight, there are a few small things that we as the public can do that really can make all the difference.
1. Pure Mile Project
The Pure Mile Project has more than 1,000 volunteers who work to combat illegal dumping in the uplands. Different groups commit to keep one mile (1.6km) of road rubbish free while simultaneously considering the preservation and careful maintenance of the flora and fauna, ditches, hedge-rows, and any other natural or man-made features of the area. pureproject.ie/what-we-do/the-pure-mile/
2. Clean Coasts Groups
There are currently more than 600 Clean Coast groups around the country, all looking for volunteers to help with their beach clean-ups. Simply log on to the website to find your nearest volunteer group, it’s as easy as that. Clean Coasts provide volunteers with litter pickers, bags and t-shirts. cleancoasts.org/our-initiatives/clean-coasts-volunteering/
3. 2-Minute Beach Clean
Next time you go to the beach, whether it’s to walk, surf or dip, take two minutes to pick up some litter. Take a snap of the litter you collect and post your snap on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook with the hashtags #2minutebeachclean and #cleancoasts. The idea behind the 2-minute beach clean can also be executed on streets, forest trails, lakes, canals, you name it! It might not sound like a huge commitment but every little helps. cleancoasts.org/our-initiatives/2minutebeachclean/
Hailing from Sweden, the word plogging comes from joining together the words jogging and plocka (the Swedish for “to pick”). And it is as simple as it sounds, just pick up some rubbish as you run! Even if you adopt this practice just once a week, it will make a difference. And as if that isn’t reason enough, you will even burn more calories out plogging than you would on a regular run. Swedish-based fitness app Lifesum says that a half-hour plog will burn 288 calories, compared with the 235 calories burned by jogging alone. facebook.com/ploggingireland/
5. Download the IMPRINT+ App
IMPRINT+ is an international project lead by Leave No Trace Ireland that aims to highlight the amount of natural resources we use in our daily lives.
The app provides a platform for individuals and groups to learn, act on and connect with environmental issues. Within the app there is a Converter which allows you to log your daily actions and provides tasks in order to offset the carbon footprint of these actions. For example, you might drive 50 miles, which the app will then convert and suggest you plant four trees or pick up 52 pieces of litter to offset your environmental impact. imprintplus.org/
6. Join your local Tidy Town group
Since its inception almost 60 years ago, the highly coveted Tidy Towns awards have been responsible for the upkeep of many of Ireland’s towns. And it shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Tidy Towns is continuing to go from strength to strength and is always welcoming new volunteers into the fold. tidytowns.ie/get-involved/find-your-local-committee/
7. Join the Dublin Clean Canals Group
The Dublin Clean Canals group is a collective made up of a number of voluntary clean up groups working along both of the canals which run through our capital city. The collective is made up of the Inchicore Environmental Group, Grand Canal Biodiversity and Clean Up Group, Friends of the Grand Canal, Grand Canal Dock Community Clean Up and the Royal Canal Clean Up Group. With support from Dublin City and Fingal councils along with Waterways Ireland, these groups all meet on a regular basis. These clean-ups are often organised via Facebook Groups or on Meet Up.
Once a year, all of the organisations join together to host one large event to both clean up the canals and to raise awareness of the growing problem of rubbish along our waterways.
The Dublin Clean Canals Action Day is a great way to do your bit if you can’t commit to regular clean-ups or if you are looking to join one of the groups. dublincanalsactionday.ie/
Heather Snelgar edits Outsider.ie