Get outside and feel the plastic

Grab a bag and clean the beaches

Person picking a plastic drinks bottle up from a beach.

An environmentally aware student expressed concern about the levels of plastic building up on our local beaches recently. The formally organised mass beach cleans have been suspended because government regulations currently prevent people from meeting in groups in public but anyone is still welcome to grab a strong bin liner, head down to the beach and strip the beach of its plastic plunder.

Striking out for the shore

Plastics in the sea often wash up on beaches and this is an ideal time for all concerned to wander over and grab everything they can see, bag it, take it home (you shouldn’t dump rubbish in a public bin), and bin it. While it is unlikely you will have the time to sift out the locally recycled plastics from the rest, just taking the plastic off the beach – and therefore out of the oceans is doing the planet a huge favour. It’s also a great way to get out, get away from anything that is stressing you, and exercise gently.

Afore ye go!

You can find some important health and safety tips to bear in mind on the Southsea Beach Watch website.

In better times, this group organises monthly mass beach cleans with a free refuse collection on the first Saturday of each month but at the moment it is just up to individual volunteers to brave the elements and carry their plastic home to throw away.

Why bother?

Most plastics are notoriously slow to decompose and as they do, they often disintegrate into small iridescent fragments that end up being eaten by predatory ocean life who confuse them with prey. Plastic accumulates along the ocean food chains, decimating undersea communities until, eventually, it ends up in many of the fish we eat. Intact lengths and loops of plastic entangle, drown, strangle marine animals.

The best ways to help the ocean are to reduce the amount of plastic we use, reuse plastic objects as often as possible, and then to recycle them at the end of their useful life. Given that the vast phytoplankton communities that both support and depend on marine ecosystems oceans are among the largest photosynthesiser communities that exist on earth, and have been called the ‘lungs of the planet’, choking everything they depend on with plastic is undoubtedly a very bad thing, long term.

So what’s holding you back? Next time you feel the need to escape, grab a plastic bag, head down to the beach, and comb the shores for their man-made treasures.

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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