The Thing about Beach Litter

There are few people who don’t like a day out at the beach. What’s better than taking a stroll down the beach with sand crunching beneath your feet and between your toes? Not much, that I can tell you.

So, the weekend past, I had the privilege of spending some time in Paternoster, on the West Coast of South Africa. It has beach sand that we eventually managed to pin down as ‘silky’, the grains are so fine. I’m certain Cleopatra would have used this in her scrub had she access to it.

But I digress. The only problem was that the beach was littered. Not heavily, at first glance, but still. Their were some obvious empty plastic water bottles lying around and a few crisp packets.

I then suddenly recalled making a promise at the Greenpop Reforest Fest at the Two Oceans Aquarium’s Rethink The Bag stand about always picking up trash on the beach when I see it. Oh crap, I’d forgotten about that! So, I duly returned to the house, fished out a plastic shopping bag and started my beach combing excursion. The beach area was about 500m x 30m (1 500 square metres for those who can actually visualise that), so not that big. It took me half and hour at a slow stroll to cover the area, and what I expected to be about half a bag’s worth of trash, ended up being a bag crammed with rubbish.

It sucked to look at it. Want to know what I found? Mostly plastic packaging for snacks, plastic bottles and bottle tops, a papsak box, cigarette butts and empty boxes, fishing rope, take away boxes, a head scarf and, thankfully, a condom wrapper. At least we know this is one numbskull that has not procreated at this time.

Obviously, not everyone gets why littering on the beach is such a foolish thing to do. Let me try and make it plain. Obviously (I dearly hope so) I’m preaching to the converted here, but let me just get it off my chest.

When you litter on the beach (and elsewhere), it shows you up as a selfish and narrow-minded mamparra. Oh, you may say, but I am contributing to job creation! Bollocks. Just listen to yourself already, making excuses for being lame and lazy! It is also an environmental hazard. Animals don’t find your litter tasty. In fact, it will quite likely kill them. Ah yes, job creation… you murmur. And don’t forget all those chemicals in the stuff you drop on the beach. Those dissolve and leach into the sand and water and … well. You swim in it, animals swim in it, and that fish you’re eating? Probably has a few of your litter toxins in its meat.

The list goes on. Read this summary by UNEP for a basic idea of the consequences of marine litter. I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet. All I think is that if you litter, you’re lazy and selfish. Or you just need to slow down and reorganise your priorities. Be come aware of your environment. It’s easy, pick up litter you see on the beach if you can. The idiot that put it there may not see, but others will. And of course, the sea creatures won’t have to deal with it.

As for the litter bugs. Throw your condom wrappers in the bin, please.

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