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emma-whitlock

Love life, love the beach, hate waste

By Emma Whitlock

Litter is my life right now. I spend many hours a week picking litter off beaches, river estuaries and the streets and green space that surround them, with a dedicated bunch of volunteers. This is all in aid of a North West focussed campaign called LOVEmyBEACH, in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy’s BeachCare, which inspires people to love their local beach and do their bit to help look after it.

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I spend my working life talking about marine litter and the huge challenge this poses across the world (there’s a great article below all about the woes of marine plastics), and encouraging people to get involved and help be part of the solution; come on a beach clean or just collect what you can the next time you’re walking along a beach. We like the #2minutebeachclean idea that has caught on with people using social media to show just what they can achieve to help the natural environment in only a few minutes.

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It’s not only physical litter that pollutes our seas and rivers though, the LOVEmyBEACH campaign aims to highlight the problems blocked drains and sewers cause as untreated sewerage overflows into waterways. This is an issue for water companies all over the UK and we can all do our bit to help the pipes keep flowing and reduce the chance of blockages and overflows.

We need to talk about the 3 p’s… pee, poo and (toilet) paper. These are the only things that you flush down your loo! Anything else – wet wipes, cleaning wipes, sanitary products and other disposable items go in the bin to avoid blockages and pollution ending up in the sea. Often on beach cleans we find these physical items from the sewers, which is pretty nasty and potentially harmful to wildlife, but if people didn’t flush them in the first place they wouldn’t end up there.

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And in the spirit of Waste Less, Live More Week, why not try giving up all these wet wipes we clutter our bathroom cabinets with and go back to good old fashioned cleaning cloths, flannels, tissue, towel or even reusable wipes with brands such as Cheeky Wipes providing alternatives to throwaway culture.

Another simple thing we can all do at home is to stop cooking fats and oils going down the sink as this also causes blocked drains. Yes, even with hot water and washing up liquid, all might disappear out of your sink but once it hits the cold pipes it will solidify and narrow the drains just as fat narrows our arteries (yes, nice thought I know…)

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So again the key here is bin it instead, or even better, recycle it! Many household waste sites take used cooking oil, so next time you’ve had a fry up or Sunday roast, tip the waste fat and oil into an old jar or bottle (any container you have to hand) and take it to the recycling centre next time you go. If this really isn’t an option, or you don’t generate much used cooking oil make sure you bin it instead so it doesn’t go down the sink. If you’re really on board with wasting less and living more you may literally be able to achieve this by having a lower fat diet and using less oil and fat in your cooking, why not try the fry light spray? NB: living a longer life not necessarily guaranteed by low-fat cooking!

Whatever small actions you take at home can have a positive effect on keeping our beloved beaches and seas cleaner for all. You can find more info at lovemybeach.org and join in the conversation using the hashtags #binit4beaches #cleanerseas and #LOVEmyBEACH to help share these messages.

emma-whitlock

About the author

When Emma is not cleaning the beach with the wonderful volunteers on the Fylde coast she may be found gardening, attempting to make compost and looking after her three rescue hens which are enjoying retirement in her garden. Having studied Sustainable Development at Bangor University Emma has a lifelong passion for the natural world and environmental protection and would encourage everyone to spend more time outdoors.

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