Marine litter is a threat to the environment, and we must do more to prevent more damage before it would be too late.
The warmer months have arrived. The sweltering heat means the beginning of boat and beach parties, and tourists and locals flocking to the islands’ many beaches. Indeed such parties and beach activities bring with them one major challenge – litter.
One of the major contributors is single-use plastic.
Some NGOs, like Malta Clean Up, have been fighting against the use of single-use plastics for a number of years, and now the government has come on-board and issued a strategy to help minimise their use, while the EU is also taking such measures.
But what is indeed needed to truly tackle this issue is a change in mentality
Business owners need to stand up and be counted. Don’t contribute to the environmental onslaught. There are viable alternatives to plastic which can be used. For example, paper straws can replace plastic ones. In cases where plastic cannot help but be used, both the government and businesses should make an extra effort to install proper disposal bins at frequent intervals.
Malta Clean Up Founder Cami Appelgren said it best: “Where there is a will there is a way. If we understand how people think and what motivates people to do the right thing, we can easily adapt our actions to serve both that and the environment. Every little change has a greater impact over time. Companies becoming environment-friendly will be the future, so the businesses better adapt and fast if they wish to remain in business. People are becoming more and more aware and will demand this change.”
As for the people, walk those few extra steps to throw your plastic cup or bottle into a plastic collecting waste-bin, not on the beach or on the ground. Consider re-using your same cup and asking for a refill if you’ve been given one, thereby slashing your waste by at least half. Recycling is good, but reducing waste outright is better.
But plastics are not the only issue. Litter on beaches and in the sea consists of other items, including cigarette butts, which are harmful to marine life, beer and soft drink cans, and any glass items, just to name a few examples. First of all, discarding some of such items on the beach could result in someone getting hurt. In addition, marine life could also be injured or get stuck in some of the litter left around on beaches which is subsequently swept into the sea, not to mention ingesting microplastics and potentially cigarette butts. By not properly disposing of waste, you will be taking the waste out of the recycling system, and it will not be able to be used again.
There are plenty of countries around the Mediterranean with picturesque beaches, and Malta needs to keep up with the competition. While the main beaches are supposedly cleaned regularly, microplastics are hard to pick up.
Getting people to listen and understand is key, but information campaigns have long been used, and litter on our beaches is still an issue. Some beaches are very well taken care of. Others, those more off the beaten path, not as much.
Even dumping litter on the coast, in areas where people don’t usually swim, causes damage to marine life, and this is where better enforcement is definitely needed. If a member of the public spots a dumping site by our shores, please do report it to the authorities. And if nothing is done, then ultimately the authorities will be held to account. If a spot is frequently used as a dumping site, then perhaps more frequent or a permanent surveillance system is required to catch the culprits.
While these are local issues which can be tackled, an international approach is also needed. It is good that countries are now taking marine litter more seriously, and the issue of single-use plastics, but perhaps Malta can push to take a more key-role advocating against marine litter. But in order to do so, we must first lead by example.
Original article found on The Malta Independent