While the majority of our beaches and harbours are falling short of clean status, Bray and Brittas Bay are both ‘Clean to European norms’. That’s according to a nationwide litter survey by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL). 40% of 32 coastal areas surveyed were clean, but there was a rise in areas branded ‘littered’ or ‘heavily littered’.
Beaches, harbours, rivers and their immediate environs were monitored by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce in June and July. The An Taisce report for Bray stated:
“The beach and the immediate hinterland in Bray were excellent with regard to litter. The area is exceptionally well served by anti litter notices and litter bins (some permanent, but many temporary ones) – this, combined with cleaning regime, is certainly having the desired effect. It was really a credit to the users of the facilities and those responsible for the maintenance. Dog Fouling notices were quite graphic, there was a complete lack of dog fouling throughout an extensive survey area. Along the beach itself, there was signage ‘3 for the Sea, please pick up 3 pieces of plastic each time you visit the beach’ – there was no visible plastic to be seen on the beach.”
The report for Brittas Bay stated: “The beach was excellent with regard to litter and the overall impression of the beach and associated car parks was of a very well respected and managed environment. The Recycle Bins in South Car Park were very fresh in appearance and there was no litter in the vicinity of same. A fairly novel feature was the voice recording ‘anti-litter’ message along the pedestrian pathway from both car parks. Anti-litter notices at both car parks were so worn away that the text was illegible. One way of dealing with the accumulation of cigarette butts at the base of the picnic tables at South Car Parks is so install cigarette butt units at each picnic table – this has been done to great effect in other places. Erosion control signage was clear and legible.”
Other clean beaches included Strandhill, Lahinch, Clogherhead and Portmarnock. By contrast, Bundoran in Donegal, Keel in Mayo and Salthill and Dogs Bay in Galway were littered.
“The story is a positive one in that we’ve seen a welcome rise in the number of clean beaches and harbours compared to our study of 2 years ago,” comments Conor Horgan of IBAL. “This is especially encouraging given the number of people who are staycationing and availing of our coastal amenities this year. There is evidence that many local authorities have upped their game in terms of additional bins, facilities and signage.”
“However, at the bottom end of the table, we’ve seen many areas deteriorate from ‘moderately littered’ to ‘littered’.
“As well as local authorities, credit is due to growing number of Clean Coast volunteer groups, now 1,500-strong, who work so hard to keep our beaches free of litter. Their efforts are clearly bearing fruit,” adds Mr Horgan.
The most common forms of litter found by the assessors were cigarette butts, sweet wrappers, disposable masks and plastic bottles, with coffee cups also featuring strongly. Alcohol cans were found in almost half of all sites.
“The majority of these litter item are plastics, whose impact on the marine environment is a recognised source of global concern. Cigarette butts, for example, may appear harmless, but they are in effect a single-use plastic which poses a real danger to our sea life.” Research shows a single butt can contaminate up to 200 litres of water.
“We all need to realise that the implications of litter along our coasts go beyond tourism and recreation. It presents an existential threat to our planet.”