Businesses on Scarborough’s seafront must lead the battle against sea pollution, the borough’s councillors have been told.
Matt Barnes, the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) volunteer and community engagement manager for the North East, briefed councillors yesterday on the issues facing the seas and beaches in the area and said that practical measures needed to be taken.
Among them was convincing businesses on the seafront to switch to biodegradable packaging for drinks and chips which, while more expensive, would lessen the impact if left discarded on the beaches.
Mr Barnes was speaking in response to concerns raised by councillors that getting people to stop littering was proving difficult.
Cllr Guy Smith (Ind), who runs donkey rides on the beach, said visitors to the area from inland were to blame for scenes of rubbish left strewn on the sand following sunny days on the coast.
He said: “I don’t know how we are going to address this as you get people who come from West Yorkshire on a day trip and they have no concept of picking up their rubbish.
“I saw this happen on Saturday. People just get their fish and chips and just chuck the rubbish on the floor. We can’t really fine people on the spot and we’ve got adequate bins in my opinion, the signs are there saying ‘please do not litter’ but we just can’t stop people. It’s their mentality.”
Mr Barnes said the issue came back to ensuring what was on sale was not harmful to the environment.
He said: “If you’ve got visitors then they could be bringing their own products with them but if they are purchasing products here it’s about making sure that the products we are serving them on the seafront stores are of the type that if they are irresponsibly disposed of they don’t cause problems [for pollution and sea creatures].
“I think we are exacerbating the problems ourselves by not stocking the right products and then complaining when they drop them.”
The MCS offers a service to businesses to help them source the best deals for environmentally friendly packaging in order to reduce the cost to them of making the switch, Mr Barnes added.
He told councillors that the average amount of litter per 100 metres of beach in England last year was 655 items, ranging from bags to bottles and food packages. In Yorkshire, the average amount of litter per 100 metres is 803 items. The true picture for Scarborough’s South Bay, which once again failed to meet EU bathing water standards this year, was not known as the beach is cleaned by the council each morning.
Mr Barnes said that individual beaches had their own issues. He said that last weekend he found two syringes filled with blood on Cayton Bay beach left by drug users, which could have had devastating consequences if stood on by a visitor.
Councillors were also told that the MCS hoped that the next change in the law would be for a return scheme for drinks containers which would see people pay 10p or 20p more for a can or bottle of drink but then get that money back if they returned it to the point of sale.
Mr Barnes pointed to the success of the plastic bag charge and hoped it could have a similar impact on the number of plastic bottles being left on beaches.
There has been a 47% drop in the number of plastic bags found during beach cleans since the 5p was introduced by supermarkets, he added.
For more information on the Marine Conservation Society and its work in Scarborough visit www.mcsuk.org.