A Jeyes fluid bottle with a label noting a 1p discount, discarded tents, alcohol bottles and disposable masks were among the items volunteers encountered as tonnes of waste were picked-up on east Co Cork beaches in recent weeks.
Proinsias Ó Tuama, a teacher involved in Clean Coasts Ballynamona, said the group had discovered bottles with labels going back at least three decades.
An Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) report said that at first glance White Bay Beach in Roches Point looks clean with limited amounts of fresh litter.
“However, in the cobbles, stones and sand along the top of the beach it is stuffed with a small pieces of broken-up long lie litter and sewage related litter mainly cotton buds, bottle tops etc,” it found.
“It looks like this beach is where a lot of the marine litter transported into Cork Harbour from upstream ends up and is winnowed and broken up and then entombed into the beach sediments.”
Mr Ó Tuama said White Bay was a “problematic” area and that the volunteers had done “about 70 something hours” of cleaning on it over the last seven weeks.
“We do socially distanced beach cleans, which is difficult enough because you really need an army,” he said.
Mr Ó Tuama admits that group members are often stunned by the age profile of items they encounter.
“The Jeyes fluid bottle with a 1p discount on it was shocking. It is a long time since anyone got excited about a 1p discount so that shows how old it was.”
Mr Ó Tuama said they did a spotcheck of the beach yesterday and had to pick up masks, towels, flip flops, beer bottles, broken glass, cans and a tent.
“The leave no trace thing isn’t working,” he said. “White Bay was in fairly okay condition three weeks ago. The sight that greeted us yesterday was really disheartening.”
He said the group collected 12 to 14 bags of litter, which were taken away by Cork County Council, including steaks and condiments from what appeared to be an aborted barbecue effort.
“The rat population would have had a field day if we hadn’t cleaned up. There is a massive problem in Cork Harbour,” he said.
Parts of Blackrock in Cork city were also singled out as problematic areas for litter. IBAL said that overall the landward area is well managed but that the foreshore to the west of Blackrock Castle was heavily littered with plastic bottles, coffee cups and plastic packaging.
Caroline Daly, of the Blackrock Clean-up group, said there was an increase in litter locally this year because of "widespread outdoor drinking". She thanked the local council for its efforts in allocating grants and discretionary funds to help keep areas clean.
Cllr Lorna Bogue said more bins are needed in areas such as Blackrock.
“Unfortunately the reason why we as a council are unable to put up more bins is that we don’t have the funding from the State to provide this service... It is not just the bins. We need someone to go and collect them,” she said.
“Manufacturers also need to be pushed by the Government to produce packaging that isn’t as damaging to the environment.”
Lord Mayor of Cork city Cllr Colm Kelleher said the lockdown period led to more outdoor gatherings producing more litter.
“Across the city as a whole our sanitisation teams have been working tirelessly. But people need to be conscious of their litter,” he said. “If they don’t have a clear avenue to dump it in a correct manner they need to put it in a bag and bring it home.”