Across the world, coastal environments have been affected massively by the increase in pollution. Oil spills, single use plastics, littering and industrial fishing have all lead to the decrease and endangerment of many marine species that previously thrived. Each year, we discard 8 million metric tonnes of plastic into our oceans, which on its own kills many ocean animals. This plastic also breaks down into microplastics and enters the food chain, contaminating the animals and re-entering our own bodies through the sea food that many people eat.
Beautiful beaches need responsible beach goers to protect them
Porthcurno is no different to this. Seemingly picturesque and crystal clear, during tourist season the beach and surrounding area is flooded with litter, discarded barbeques, abandoned tents and broken beach toys. Despite the efforts of the local community to clear up this litter, there is simply no way of keeping on top of the problem. It isn’t just Porthcurno that is affected; this is a pressing issue in all popular tourist destinations around the Cornish coast. So, here are some ways to help protect beautiful coastal areas, like Porthcurno, all year round.
Most important to remember when visiting the stunning coast and beaches is that whatever you bring needs to be taken away with you. Beyond the efforts of local volunteers who pick up litter, there are no beach cleaners employed around the coast, so it is down to us all as beach users to clear up after ourselves. Everything, from food wrappers, bottles, nappies, clothing, tents, wind breakers, and bodyboards, will have a negative effect on the environment if discarded.
At Porthcurno, like many Cornish beaches, there are litter bins available in the carpark to dispose of non-recyclable waste, keeping the beach cleaner and safer for animals and people alike. If litter is recyclable, it is best to take it with you and put it into your domestic recycling to ensure it has a longer life and does not end up in landfill. When you are on the beach, picking up any litter that you see (that is safe to touch), and taking it home with your own, goes a long way in protecting our environment.
Avoid accidental littering – buy natural and bioplastic toys
Even with the best intentions, it can be easy to still contribute to coastal pollution. Some ways to avoid accidental littering is to buy metal, wooden or bioplastic beach toys and buckets, which are far less likely to break and shatter like plastic beach toys, and can be used year after year, overall saving money! One of the worst beach toys to use, are ring frisbees. These items, when washed into ocean or lost on the beach, can get caught around the necks of seals, which, as they grow, are inescapable and get embedded in their flesh cause fatal injuries. Similarly, any plastic loops and tubes, such as plastic beer can rings, pose a serious threat to animals. It is important to cut up these types of plastics before disposing of them correctly and responsibly.
Cheap throwaway bodyboards cause environmental damage
Avoiding cheap polystyrene bodyboards is also vital to maintaining the cleanliness and health of our natural environment. These bodyboards are marketed to be convenient and affordable to occasional beach goers, but they are an environmental disaster. They are usually thin, made of cheap material and wrapped in a layer of nylon cloth. Due to their shoddy build quality, they will likely break after a couple of uses, after which they are often discarded on the beach or in the sea.
In 2019, the Keep Britain Beach Care program retrieved 480 ditched bodyboards from just the coast of Watergate Bay (Cornwall) and Croyde Bay (Devon), but it is believed that the amount of bodyboards entering our marine environment is in the tens of thousands. To make matters worse, in the likely event of these boards snapping while in use, thousands of tiny micro plastics are released into the environment which then enter the animal ecosystem, by being, often unknowingly consumed. A good alternative is buying proper bodyboards from the many surf shops round Cornwall, not only supporting local businesses, but the boards will perform better and last year after year of beach visiting, with virtually no environmental cost and far less risk of breakage.
Disposable BBQ’s – convenient but problematic
Disposable BBQs, although appealing and convenient to use at the beach, can pose a massive risk to other visitors and local wildlife. When visiting a beach, note whether they have a BBQ bin, and if not, leave enough time for the BBQ to completely cool down before taking it home, or placing it carefully next to a bin if there is no other choice.
Many people cover BBQS with sand and leave them on the beach. Not only is this terribly dangerous and can cause serious burns if another person or animal stands on it, but the jagged metal edges can also cause serious injuries too. If left also, as any other litter does, it will get washed into the sea and pose a massive threat to marine wildlife.
Overall, it is invaluable to be aware and make the biggest effort you can to protect our natural landscapes in your daily life, so that we are able to have and appreciate the wonderful natural environment of our coasts, without the constant presence of pollution.
Maeve Cushla, Young Curator, PK Porthcurno