When I'm on the beach and in the sea I am constantly bombarded with waste plastic and litter. Awareness is starting to grow about the devastating quantities of plastics physically choking our animals and oceans. These plastics can take over a century to degrade. As a family we decided to do something about it, we started to reduce our plastic usage wherever possible and joined a beach cleaning group who meet once each month to clean the local beaches.
I soon started cleaning every beach I visited and then started going to the beach purely to clean and enjoy the sea air.
Some of my artwork includes some of the unique ‘trash’ I find on my beach cleans like netting, rusty objets, shells, driftwood, cork and many others. This brings a deep satisfaction that the waste is being used in a piece of art that someone will treasure, featuring the stunning Irish coast that is a little bit cleaner due to this piece of art.
Im often asked why do you pick up other peoples dirty rubbish?
Because I love the planet and every animal on it. I see daily the impact humans are inflicting on the earth and I want to feel like I am breaking a cycle and making a difference. For every basket of trash I remove I know I have helped wildlife and maybe saved a sea creatures life. Ive made the beach safer and more enjoyable and Ive walked my dogs, which is always time well spent. I love the characters I meet on the beach who stop to chat about what I’m doing, some even give a helping hand and a tall tale.
What litter do I find most?
This is a question I’m often asked and unfortunately the answer is quite extensive so grab a light refreshment and keep reading. A large proportion of waste is from the fishing industries which includes nylon ropes, nets, rubber claw rings, polystyrene, plastic wrap, tyres, floats, jerry cans and other plastics.
The next most common items are food packaging, plastic bottles being the worst culprit. I can always collect at least 10 on a brief walk, plastic straws, cups, lolly sticks, ice-cream packaging, crisps, cans, sweet packets/tubes, take away food packaging, glass bottles, plastic cutlery and takeaway coffee cups and lids.
Regular offenders also include cigarette butts and boxes, nappies, dog poop bags, sanitary products, the occasionally shotgun casings, beach toys, toy packaging, cable ties, plastic bags and wrap, flip flops, shoes and crab cages.
The rarer finds include drug paraphernalia, syringes and some pretty gruesome or dangerous items. Children and animals enjoying the beach deserve to be safe and I have no issue carefully removing these items but I would recommend maximum caution if you come across these items and decide to remove them yourself. I carry a large basket when Im cleaning with a box for goodies and another section for the dangerous items.
Finally there is the worst offender of all which is the hardest to remove - Micro Plastics. You can barely see them, small flecks of red, green, blue and every colour of the rainbow are dotted on the sand like glitter. As the plastic gets thrown about by the ocean it breaks into tiny pieces. One small piece of plastic can become a thousand micro plastics. Unfortunately these plastics are now in many fish that we consume, we are poisoning our own food supply. I could spend 2 hours collecting micro plastics and not even fill my pocket.
Avoiding the plastic ever entering the ocean is the only fix.
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”