Rubbish, dropped on beaches or discarded out at sea, is an eyesore and a threat to wildlife. But all is not lost
As summer approaches and our thoughts turn beachwards, why not play your part in helping to clear our beaches of litter? It not only preserves their beauty, it also helps wildlife that can be harmed by rubbish on the shore and in the sea itself.
Some like to play their part as individuals â€“ and if we all removed just one discarded item each time we visited a beach, it would make a big difference. Others like to join an organised event â€“ and these have already started.
Kate Humble, best known as a presenter on TV wildlife shows such as Springwatch and Autumnwatch, has been supporting a UK-wide series of beach clean ups organised by the Californian winemaker Barefoot, in conjunction with Surfers Against Sewage.
We caught up with her when she ventured to Dunbar, East Lothian, where she joined an army of volunteers clearing litter from the East Beach. She recounted how she had once witnessed an autopsy on a leatherback turtle, an animal that lives entirely on jellyfish. Its stomach was crammed with plastic bags, which it had mistaken for his staple foodstuff.
It was a ghastly tale, but she lightened the mood with another story about two people walking on a beach and seeing thousands of stranded starfish. One of them throws a starfish back into the water and the other says: â€œWhatâ€™s the point? It wonâ€™t make any difference.â€ The thrower replies that it will make a difference to the starfish thatâ€™s been thrown back. Humbleâ€™s point was that every action on behalf of wildlife is worthwhile, no matter how tiny, and the same applies to cleaning beaches.
It was her first visit to Dunbar, and she paid tribute to people from the town and beyond who turned out to help. Items they collected included a 1987 can of shandy, a traffic bollard and (apparently) a goat castration ring, among the more predictable plastic bottles and cotton buds.
Humble said: â€œPeople dump stuff in the sea with thinking about it actually being a wildlife habitat, but efforts like this show weâ€™re not powerless to do something about it.â€
The East Lothian event was followed by another in St Andrews and more in England and Wales, but the Barefoot Wine series is by no means the only beach-cleaning initiative on the calendar. The Marine Conservation Society runs frequent beach clean ups as well as an annual Beachwatch Big Weekend, this yearâ€™s being on 19-22 September. The aim of this is not only to clean beaches, but to compile detailed information on the scale of the problem.
Keep Scotland Beautifulâ€™s website lists countless litter drives, on beaches and elsewhere. They include: St Monans, Fife (16 May); Largs, Ayrshire (23 May); Ravencraig, Kirkcaldy, Fife (27 May); Kilmory, Arran, (30 May and 13 June).