Beaches and picnic spots strewn with litter as heatwave continues
Bottles, cans, shoes, tents, barbecues and bras among the items discarded on beaches
Litter lines the entrance to the popular Myrtleville beach near Crosshaven. Photograph: Howard Crowdy
Mike O’Neill is used to finding small piles of rubbish scattered across the sandy beach near his home in Fenit, Co Kerry. Last weekend, however, was different. With temperatures soaring to the mid-20s, hundreds of people arrived in the area with their picnics and barbecues ready to soak up those rare summer rays. By Sunday evening, the long stretch of sand was covered with litter.
“There were cans, wrappers, items of clothing, shoes, tents, you name it,” says Mr O’Neill, who as a member of the Fenit Development Association is actively involved in ensuring the local beach is kept clean.
“We live in this disposable society where if you don’t want to fold it up, you don’t bring it home.”
Mr O’Neill says he was not surprised by people’s failure to clean up their trash. “It was annoyance mixed with déjà vu. It happens all the time. What I find frustrating is despite all the education, and every generation should be building on the previous one, kids don’t seem to be aware of recycling. It looks like we’re not learning anything.”
Mr O’Neill has tried raising awareness in his café in Fenit where he provides customers with Irish-made, bio-degradable coffee cups.
Fenit was not the only area to suffer in recent days. By Sunday evening, rubbish was strewn across beaches, parks, canals and rivers around the country with overflowing bins becoming commonplace across Dublin’s parks and alongside the canals.
Susan Vickers, officer for An Taisce’s clean coasts programme in Kerry, Cork and Limerick, says the litter abandoned in public places after a sunny day has become a never-ending cycle.
If people are going to enjoy a public amenity they need to take their rubbish home
“People leave behind plastic bottles, towels, socks, even bras are quite frequent.”
Families often discard disposable barbecues in the sand dunes, she adds. “They’re generally made from wire and can cause a lot of damage, both to people and wildlife. If people are going to enjoy a public amenity they need to take their rubbish home.”
Ms Vickers commended the hard work carried out by hundreds of volunteers in keeping local beaches clean, but warned everyone needed to take responsibility for their own mess.
Sinéad McCoy from An Taisce described the “destruction” of beaches over the weekend as “terribly saddening” but praised the work of the 2,300 volunteers who took part in cleaning up their local beaches as part of the Coca-Cola Clean Coasts week. Some 15 tonnes of rubbish was removed from Irish coastline last week as part of the 130 clean-ups around the country. An Taisce is also encouraging individuals to take part in the #2minutebeachclean campaign which asks that individuals pick up litter every time they’re on the beach.
A spokesman for Fingal County Council said a number of additional bins were installed at Malahide, Portmarnock, Sutton and Howth beaches over the weekend to try and deal with the large quantity of food and drink containers, while staff worked from 6am to keep the areas clean.
Green party leader Eamonn Ryan has launched new legislation in the Dáil which seeks to introduce a recycling deposit scheme for bottles and cans, similar to schemes which are operating successfully in other countries. The legislation also calls for an eventual ban on single-use, non-recyclable plastics in food and drink outlets.