Cramond Beach Clean: Cheveners battle litter on #EarthDay2017
Cramond, a historic former village located in the north-west outskirts of Edinburgh, has been described as ‘the oldest known site of human habitation in Scotland’.
Its sandy beach continues to be a favourite spot for both Edinburghers and tourists. The majesty of the Firth of Forth, which can be viewed while walking on the shore, adds to Cramond beach’s allure.
On Saturday, 22 April, Chevening Scholars joined forces with the Marine Conservation Society and volunteers from all over the UK to celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up Cramond beach. The Cramond beach clean-up is part of a larger national beach cleaning and litter surveying programme called Beachwatch, which celebrated its 23rd anniversary last year. One of the aims of Beachwatch is to raise awareness about how marine wildlife is under threat, ‘with hundreds of species accidentally eating or becoming entangled in litter’.
The weather on the morning of the clean-up was lovely. As soon as we arrived, the Cramond promenade quickly filled up with families having picnics, dog walkers, and cyclists. The festive atmosphere helped energise the volunteers for the task ahead. According to Chevener Tlaleo Marole, who studies MSc Food Science, Safety and Health at Heriot-Watt University: ‘I joined this amazing activity because I needed to go out before my exams to help me clear my mind. This was also a great opportunity to see Cramond’.
The day began with a meet-up by the Cramond island causeway at 10:00 for a briefing with Callum Duncan, MCS Scotland Program Manager. Mr Duncan briefed the volunteers on various people-centered campaigns, along with collaborative approaches to marine conservation, management, and protection.
After the briefing, we were divided into groups and given gloves, litter pickers, extra large litter bags, and a survey form. We were then tasked to collect and survey litter along a 100 metre stretch of the shore. We viewed our task as a ‘battle’ that we fully expected to win that morning.
As the morning progressed, my group slowly gained the momentum needed to fight the good fight against litter – or, to be clear, the litter within our assigned 100 metre area of responsibility. My group predominantly gathered wet wipes, sanitary items, lollipop sticks, and plastic toys. At the end of the two-hour clean up and survey, Mr Duncan announced that a total of 67 kilograms of litter was collected.
As Mr Duncan explained during the briefing, the abundance of wet wipes along Cramond shore highlights the need for stricter and clearer labelling requirements by retailers. The picture below shows undeniable evidence that wet wipes currently labelled as ‘flushable’ do not meet water industry standards and actually present a threat to beaches in the UK.
Chevener Bryce Wray, who studies LLM Human Rights Law at the University of Strathclyde, said: “[t]he Cramond Beach clean-up was an eye-opening experience as we could not believe how much litter can accumulate on a beach over a period of time. It made me aware that something as small as using a wet wipe, and not disposing it responsibly, could impact marine conservation miles away from the city’.
Volunteering for the Cramond beach clean-up reaffirmed a commitment that I made many years ago – Earth Day should be celebrated every day and not just once a year. Based on the new things I learned from the MCS briefing, as well as my first ever experience of systematically picking up, surveying, and weighing beach litter, it is clear that big changes can take place if everyone does their part to incorporate small, yet environmentally impactful, habits into their daily routine.
Being more ecologically conscious of the products we consume, reading labels carefully, insisting that products meet the highest environmental and industry standards, and disposing of our litter properly, are all ways of exercising individual responsibility. This, in turn, will reap collective benefits.