Category Archives: Environment

We don’t want a rubbish coast

There is something very sad about seeing a beach littered with pink plastic bottles. Last week Poldhu beach in West Cornwall became the latest victim of stuff floating around in our seas. Yes this might have come from a container that disappeared over the side of a ship but it’s symbolic of our often casual attitude the oceans.

poldhupollution Steve Haywood

After an overnight high tide last week National Trust staff and volunteers were met with hundreds more pink detergent bottles washed up at Poldhu and Gunwalloe in West Cornwall. Over a thousand were cleared from Poldhu beach this morning, and the local opinion is that numbers are increasing not tailing off. The pink bottles are now also being found in Mount’s Bay, to the west of Poldhu.

Marine waste is a big issue. Our seas are full of the stuff. And the impact can be felt in terms of how our beaches look and the wildlife that calls the seaside that we all love home. Think of the last time that you were at the coast and some of the disregarded rubbish strewn along a beach. I remember being on a beautiful beach in south Pembrokeshire which was full of disregarded fishing nets; not a great experience for families and potentially lethal for seabirds.

A few years back the Head Ranger on the Farne Islands tweeted a picture of a seabird that he’d found tangled in a balloon. For this bird it would get a second chance but for many others they don’t. The picture quite rightly provoked a lot of concern about what is happening along our coastline.

Teams of coastal Rangers and volunteers help to keep our beaches clean. Their tireless efforts mean that we can enjoy beaches free of litter and sometimes potentially nasty surprises. The beach cleans that happen on a regular basis are a good indicator of the sheer volume of rubbish and the scale of the problem.

We can all do our bit to make sure that our waste footprint along the coast is zero (if there are no bins just take it home and don’t casually chuck your rubbish somewhere that people might not see it). And there needs to be more of an effort by Government to make sure that marine litter is reduced and that shipping and boats think about how they deal with their rubbish.

It really is rubbish to find a favourite beach or a spectacular stretch of coastline blighted by litter. Loads of people are keeping our coast special by helping to clear it up and we need to make sure that we’re not adding to the problem.



A green-tinged sense of optimism

Back in the mists of time I can remember writing an essay for my GCSE English about the environment. Its something that really stuck in my mind from the days of staring out of the window; the beginnings of a life-long interest.

This was the age of the Rio Earth summit and talk about de-forestation in the amazon and the hole in the ozone layer was the main focus of environmental stories in the media .

Alot has changed in the last 25 years. As the talks in Paris grind out an international agreement its worth remembering that efforts to put the environment at the centre of the global stage began in the 1970s – when the United Nations Environment Programme was set up in Stockholm.

This time round there seems to be alot of optimism. It seems that the penny is finally dropping. If we don’t act now to avoid hiting 2c of temperature rise that the future for our children isn’t great.  Its also an opportunity to create an engine of growth: the low carbon (or zero carbon) economy will see lots of new opportunities to green the economies of the world. Having proper and robust adaptation plans will create jobs and importantly secure the future of vulnerable communities.

But rather than just adapting and hoping for the best we do need to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmopshere and the degradation of the natural environment. This is the stuff of life. Nature has suffered terribly in the last sixty years – a result of industrialisation and the green revolution of farming, where the value of land and the soil has come a poor second.

If communities, society and Governments come together and work in partnership we can turn things around. The recycling revolution of the last twenty years has shown that behaviour change is possible. But we do need an active state mentality to power some of the changes needed: investing in renewable energy technology, using economic levers to manage the natural environment and taxing bad econmic activities.

When my children do their GCSEs in the 2020s I hope that they would be able to write with optimism about he future of the planet for their generation.



Helping charities bag a little bit extra

Plastic has become one of the symbols showing the impact of people on the environment. It’s a fossil fuel hungry resource and plastic bags litter the world. Something that has come to symbolise consumerism is causing untold damage on the natural world. Our oceans are full of plastic wreaking havoc on wildlife.
Finally, as of Monday this week, we have a 5p charge for plastic bags. Hopefully this small fee will make people think about their impact upon the world around us when shopping. In countries where the charge has been in force for a while there has been a dramatic decline in plastic bag usage, which can only be a good thing.
The challenge has been the short shelf-life of plastic bags. They might be used only once or twice before ending up in land-fill or worse discarded in the countryside or at the coast. Charging for plastic bags will not solve the massive challenge of climate change and the need to cut our emissions and curb our hunger for fossil fuels. But it’s a start. Like recycling we need people to change their behaviour and think as individuals and families about their impact on the environment. 
I reckon that on average I use six to eight plastic bags a week when shopping. That might only be up to 40p a week if buying bags but if you multiply that across a city like Bath, where I live, that is a lot of bags and a lot of five pence pieces. So like the rise of micro volunteering (giving small chunks of time to charity regularly) why not use this moment to start some micro-donating to local charities. Yes 80% of the money raised by plastic bag charges will go to charity but why not use other bags and make that figure 100%.
You could either pop the pennies into a collection tin or work out your annual equivalent spend on plastic bags based on the charge and make a one off donation. This sort of support has the potential to make a massive difference to local charities and it links a good environmental change in behaviour with a good in terms of much financial support for a local charity.
And hopefully this charge for plastic bags will make us all think about the wider impact of rubbish on where we live and the the impact on the places that we love.