Scarborough could lead the way in cutting down on discarded plastic that is killing marine life.
This week The Scarborough News is backing calls to reduce damaging plastic and litter along the Yorkshire coast.
Discarded food containers as well as plastic bottles and beach toys are littering the shoreline – and getting into the sea amid growing reports of seals, seabirds and other marine life choking or being snared by debris.
Blue Planet, the most-watched TV programme of the year for its final episode, showed how the oceans are threatened by overfishing and plastic pollution.
Yorkshire coast and Scarborough campaigners are also calling for action.
Organisations such as Scarborough’s Sea Life Sanctuary see just how detrimental the impact of marine litter has on the environment.
“When it comes to the summer months people seem to think if it’s on the beach it’s in the bin,” says the sanctuary’s Corrine Macdonald.
“It’s one of our big campaigns here. We have seen the affects of this, in the rockpools we don’t see as much wildlife as we once would have done in years gone by.
“Over the year the sanctuary has been called to animal rescues where the likes of seals have became caught in netting and plastic.
“If it’s an older seal they have a lot of blubber so we can usually cut them free and their injuries will heal themselves.
“But for younger seals it’s a lot more dangerous and it can be deadly.”
It holds four beach cleans a year from April to October.
She added: “Things like re-using a plastic water bottle before recycling it, using a bag for life at the supermarket rather than a plastic one, eating sustainably caught fish and just picking up your rubbish so it doesn’t end up in the ocean, make a difference.”
Throughout 2017, this newspaper has covered rescues that organisations such as the RSPCA and the sealife centre have carried out to support marine wildlife in some of the most obvious effects of plastic pollution.
At the end of August, a seal was rescued off Ravenscar when a toy frisbee became wrapped around its neck.
RSPCA Animal Collection Officer Leanne Honess-Heather said at the time: “He had a frisbee dog toy stuck tight round his neck which had cut into his flesh and caused an infection.
“We frequently see wildlife with the most appalling injuries caused by carelessly discarded litter. By removing this marine debris as well as encouraging others to dispose of their litter appropriately, we hope we can make a really positive impact on the welfare of wildlife around our shores.”
Concerned resident Mandy Hillier,of Scalby Nabs, Scarborough, said: “Before we lose the impact of television’s Blue Planet and its dire warnings about plastics getting into the marine environment we could try to reduce our own use.”
She has created posters urging takeaways and stores along the sea fronts to cut down using plastic straws.
Mrs Hillier added: “Do we need straws and if we do what is wrong with using paper ones? Could more natural materials replace plastic cups, forks and knives and do we always need those lids on top of takeaway cups?
“I’m not an expert but I’ve read what the Marine Conservation Society has to say and anything we can do to cut down on plastics can only be positive.”
The Scarborough Sub Aqua club, encouraged by member Zoe Frank, is encouraging its members to pick up plastic/rubbish while out on dives.
John Senior, chairman of South Bay Traders’ Association, has offered to schedule the plastics issue at its next meeting. His restaurants have already switched to cardboard disposable containers for all takeaway food.
At least one take-away seafront operation has agreed to look in to the possibility of using compostible cutlery/ trays etc and to ask customers if they really need a plastic lid on their cups .
A motion has been put forward to Scarborough Borough Council to look at reducing single-use plastic in the area.
Eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans each year endangering marine life.
The motion, by the Green Party, says: “300 million tones of plastic are produced around the globe each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging. It is time for Scarborough Council to take a lead on this issue, in line with our Sustainability Project.”
It urges the cabinet to show some form of engaging leadership and develop a “robust strategy” with key people and groups to make the council a “single-use-plastic-free authority” by the end of 2018.