Keep Our Coast Clean: It's down to all of us to protect our beaches and deal with litter

Fin the Fish on South Bay, a sculpture created to encourage visitors to dispose of their plastic responsibly. Hollie Pilmer feeds Fin a plastic bottle. PIC: Richard Ponter
Fin the Fish on South Bay, a sculpture created to encourage visitors to dispose of their plastic responsibly. Hollie Pilmer feeds Fin a plastic bottle. PIC: Richard Ponter

With the weather forecast looking good for the bank holiday weekend, Scarborough is gearing up to welcome thousands of visitors to its beaches over the three days.

But, while the seafront is a magnet for residents and visitors alike, recent busy weekends have seen beaches, especially the South Bay, left covered in litter when everyone has gone home.

Fin the Fish gets a cheer as the sculpture arrives to encourage responsible disposal of plastics . PIC: Richard Ponter

Fin the Fish gets a cheer as the sculpture arrives to encourage responsible disposal of plastics . PIC: Richard Ponter

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But, while the seafront is a magnet for residents and visitors alike, recent busy weekends have seen beaches, especially the South Bay, left covered in litter when everyone has gone home.

After Armed Forces Day at the end of June, photos showing South Bay strewn with rubbish circulated online, prompting Cllr Tony Randerson to urge people to take their rubbish home with them.

Ahead of another predicted busy weekend, The Scarborough News is echoing that call with the launch of our Keep Our Coast Clean campaign by asking everyone who visits the beach to dispose of their litter properly, or take it away with them.

Litter on North Bay beach. PIC: Richard Ponter

Litter on North Bay beach. PIC: Richard Ponter

In response to the campaign, Cllr Janet Jefferson, Scarborough Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Operations, said: “We welcome a renewed focus on how we all have a part to play in looking after the environment and how, if we all think about our environment, we can help protect it for future generations.

“There has been an increase in awareness about beach litter and the harm it can cause to marine life and bathing water quality.

“Unfortunately not everyone is taking on board this message, and continue to leave litter and items on the beach after they have left.”

Keeping the beach clean requires the public, the council and business owners to work together to reduce the amount of litter that makes its way into the sea.

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Cllr Jefferson added: “Our collection crews work hard in summer to empty litter bins, at peak times almost every hour, to ensure the area is kept clean and tidy.

“We also deploy temporary litter bins on the beach and have staff manually litter picking, alongside the excellent voluntary groups who pick up other items, especially at our quieter beaches.”

Rubbish not cleared from the sand which makes its way into the sea can have a devastating effect on the marine ecosystem and bathing water quality.

Plastics, in particular, take a long time to break down in the ocean and are eventually consumed by wildlife, which we in turn can then ingest.

A study by the University of Plymouth found microplastics in a third of all fish they examined in the English Channel.

Scarborough Council is working with Yorkshire Water to promote the importance of reducing plastic pollution and protecting the Yorkshire coastline. Their most recent project, in partnership with the University of Hull, was unveiled on South Bay last week.

Fin the Fish, a 700kg metal cod, is both a sculpture and a receptacle for plastic waste.

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Geraldine Tebb, Yorkshire’s Water coastal delivery and engagement manager, explained the inspiration for Fin came from Bali, where there is a similar sculpture of a tropical fish.

She said: “We wanted to bring the first permanent sculpture of this kind to the UK.

“Our bathing water analysis shows when the beach is busiest is when we struggle to keep the water quality at a good level so we hope Fin shows people how to reduce the impact of being a tourist.”

The five-metre long sculpture will be maintained and emptied by Scarborough Council and will stay on South Bay until the end of November when it will move inland to the Humber region before returning to the beach next Easter.

It allows people to visualise just how much plastic is being used in the hope this prompts them to reconsider their own plastic use.

The University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute is researching solutions to some of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world today, including marine plastics.

Professor Dan Parsons, director of the institute, said: “The world has woken up to the critical issue of plastic pollution in our oceans, which is a growing challenge and is having devastating consequences for marine environments both globally and off our Yorkshire coastline.

“Our scientists at the University of Hull are tackling these issues through our research and teaching but we all have a duty to do what we can to protect our fragile marine ecosystems.

“We hope that Fin the Fish will help visitors to Scarborough see this growing problem and prompt them to consider what they can do to reduce their own waste.”

Cllr Jefferson added: “We strongly encourage people to bin their litter or take it home with them rather than leaving it and we also encourage dog owners to remove their dog waste when enjoying our coastline.”