THE council in Scarborough is apparently looking to recruit a beach warden to tackle the pollution blighting its reputation as one of the most popular seaside spots in the country.
The North Yorkshire resort, which should be the jewel in the crown of our coastline, is reeling from the news that the picturesque South Bay has failed to meet minimum standards on water cleanliness for the second year running.
A beach warden is a positive idea, but it’s going to take more than one zealous individual in a hi-vis vest to turn around public attitudes towards littering our coastline and seas. And in any case, shouldn’t we all take responsibility?
Human-instigated pollution is hardly a hidden problem. It’s there for everyone to see. The mess that washes up on shore every high tide scars the coastline from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
If it was up to me, Sir David Attenborough’s admirable recent BBC series, Blue Planet II, would be shown on huge screens in every seaside town at regular intervals, just to remind people of the damage they can cause to marine life and the entire eco-system with their thoughtless behaviour.
The shocking footage of a dead whale calf with plastic waste wrapped around its intestines which Attenborough showed caused outrage from all sides.
Even the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, was moved to say that he felt “haunted” by the image. Then there was a row, inevitably. The British Plastics Federation hit back and said it was “disappointed” that the images were linked to plastics with “absolutely no supporting evidence”. One supposed expert went as far as to denounce the footage as “fake news”.
Everyone has the right to make their point, but all this arguing just serves to muddy the water further. You don’t need a qualification in marine biology to see that rubbish and litter harms the creatures who call the sea their home. This is one environmental issue we can’t blame on big business.
It’s the little things that are causing the most damage, the take-away knives and forks and spoons, the plastic lids from coffee cups and the casually-discarded straws and sandwich wrappers.
And you don’t need a degree in environmental science either to see that the more people litter our beaches and seaside environment, the worse the effect will be. If action is not taken now to educate and inform, it will rapidly escalate into a situation which is impossible to tackle.
Have you ever seen a beach at the end of a busy Bank Holiday? So much rubbish just tossed aside without a care. Plastic cups, ice cream cartons and wrappers, carrier bags, sandwich and salad boxes, bottles, cans, and much worse. Although littering peaks at busy times, it’s important to remember that it’s a year-round problem. Too many people just toss their detritus over their shoulder without a thought.
Why doesn’t Scarborough take a panoramic view of the whole situation and lead the way in tackling the threat? I’d like to see a campaign which reminds the countless numbers of day-trippers and holidaymakers who visit every year to leave no trace behind. It’s a policy which has worked for years in fragile natural areas such as the rainforests of Australia, for example.
It’s years since I went there on a much-treasured trip, but the message which was rammed home with typical Aussie candour has stayed with me. When you’re visiting a beautiful place, have some respect. Don’t drop so much as a piece of chewing gum. Fill your pockets with the debris you create and empty out in the nearest bin.
It’s simple really, isn’t it? But it never fails to amaze me how many people just can’t seem to grasp the concept of leaving a place as you found it. If it can’t quite stretch to screenings of Blue Planet II, I’d like Scarborough Borough Council to set an example by putting up signs, posters and social media posts to remind people to take responsibility for their rubbish.
And, even more importantly, it would be amazing if this campaign could be backed up by a committed plan to encourage local cafes, coffee shops and take-aways to reduce the amount of packaging they use, or to at least make what they do use as sustainable as possible.
The coast around Scarborough is enjoying a renaissance with a very modern kind of tourist who loves the coast for the opportunities it offers for surfing, kayaking, walking, cycling and orienteering. This kind of environmentally-aware visitor can help to set the pace. Get them on board too and publicise the “responsible” message at every public event, race day and so on.
Just think, Scarborough – and Yorkshire – could become a pioneer in the global fight against marine pollution. Now that really would put our favourite resort on the map.