What is the point of cleaning up the rubbish when it is only going to come back on the next tide?
That question has been asked quite often over the years. And I agree it is frustrating and depressing and hopeless when you think of the scale of the rubbish we remove from each cleanup only to see a significant proportion arrive back on the beach with the next few tides.
Yesterday I went down to the beach we cleaned on our last cleanup event on February 26th – 16 days ago. I was really sad to see the state it was in but not altogether surprised. Our last cleanup was very successful too. To list a few statistics and give you an idea …
100+ people helped out
200+ bags of rubbish was cleared from the beach and surrounding bushes
1500 kg (as a very conservative estimate) of debris was stopped from reentering the sea
100 kg + of ropes and nets was removed from the sand, rocks and trees
I walked along the length of the beach yesterday and was truly shocked at how many plastic water bottles there were. I collected them all as I walked along the tideline removing the lids as I went – there were 211 lids at the end of the beach. 211 plastic bottles had washed up on the beach in 16 days!
So back to the original question of the cleanups being pointless. Holding a cleanup is a mobilising act of awareness as much as it is an effort to help clean up our environment. Of the 100 people on the beach a significant number were kids of all ages. It was great to see. They are watching their parents and friends and strangers pick up someone else’s dumped rubbish. They are seeing that everyone has a part to play in looking after where we live and that we have a responsibility to do it. Seeing the amount of repetitive waste such as water bottles or styrofoam does have an impact on people and hopefully from seeing this they will be more mindful in daily life & encourage others to be the same.
Our lovely clean beach after the cleanup. This is Sam Pak Wan near the North Plaza in Discovery Bay.
30 minutes worth of plastic bottles and styrofoam. My red basket with 211 bottle caps!