Its not a pretty picture is it, you’re at your favourite beach, wiggling your toes in the sand and suddenly you cut your toe on a piece of glass. You look around and see the culprits everywhere as wrappers are strewn around the place and cigarette butts are discarded, while an innocent seagull has its head stuck in a beer six pack holder that has been abandoned on the sand, but why is there so much junk on the beach?
Donegal is blessed with many sandy beaches but they are in danger of being tarnished by constant littering, which begs the question how did all this rubbish get here and what can we do about it?
We spoke to Martin Burke who has been a litter warden in Donegal County Council for 14 years. He urges people to act responsibly and take there waste home with them when they visit the beach this summer.
“Leaving litter on the beach is very detrimental to our environment as the amount of litter and plastic that is left on the beach has to go somewhere and as soon as the tide comes in all that litter is washed out with it. This in turn effects many aspects of our environment and pollutes our water and can harm a lot of sea life, plastic can stay in our water for hundreds of years and who knows were it could end up.
“We had massive problems with this during the winter storm with litter that washed up all over our coastline. Who knows were the litter originally came from”, says Martin.
Martin states the easy solution to this problem and says its one that we can all do and get involved in.
“My message to people going to the beach this summer would be to take your litter home, and leave the beach as you find it. Anyone that is caught littering on the beach will receive an on the spot fine which is €150. Hopefully this will make people think before dropping that wrapper or paper is it worth a fine?
It is estimated that over 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic litter every year around the world. Marine and beach littering is recognized as a growing pressure on costal environments, Martin talks about ways people can get involved in helping to keep our beaches clean.
“Donegal County Council supply bags and gloves to people who want to get involved in beach clean ups. There is a great selection of initiatives to help keep our beaches clean, such as the Spring/Summer clean ups and the popular two minute beach cleans, which saw people from all over taking two minutes to clean a part of the beach and take a picture of it. People don’t realise but it’s the small things like this that can really make a difference as even though we would like to clean all the rubbish it is impossible to get it all. Any help is appreciated and it’s rewarding to be involved in something that is sustaining our county. We could help put a stop to polluting our waters and land if we just simply take our rubbish home, I mean it’s not rocket science,” laughed Martin.
What are the dangers of littering on our beaches?
- Litter that’s thrown on the beach gets washed into the water and can contaminate it.
- Plastic, one of the main sources of litter on beaches, can be deadly. Wildlife can get tangled in plastic loops that hold cans together, causing them to become injured or even die.
- Anyone caught littering will be fined an on the spot fine of €150
- Last year over 2 tonnes of rubbish (yes you read that right) was removed from Rossnowlagh beach.
- If you want to report littering or illegal dumping contact Donegal County Council online at www.donegalcoco.ie or call 074 91 53900