Kate Simon: Prevention rather than cure will keep our beaches clean

Travel View

Bad news for litterbugs. The good citizens of Cinque Terre in Italy have banned visitors from using plastic bottles in an effort to stop the place becoming a rubbish dump.

Apparently, two million plastic bottles a year are discarded by the three million tourists who visit this chain of pretty villages along the Ligurian coast, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Now, anyone arriving in the area will be asked to pay €1 to hire a reusable metal flask, which they can then fill up at new public fountains offering still and sparkling water.

This will be a welcome relief to my big brother, Peter, who lives in Italy. He has taken it upon himself to clean his favourite stretch of sand in Puglia every year for the past three – clearing the path through the pine woods to the free beach at Punta della Suina, and then going on to tidy the area between two beach bars.

His efforts are now attracting attention. "People have seen me doing it and have asked me if I've got more plastic gloves and bin bags and then joined in," he tells me. And his actions have also spurred on local users to do a big clean-up once a year at the end of the summer season.

Of course, my big brother is not alone in his enthusiasm for the environment. In Britain, thousands of us volunteer to clean up our landscape every year, with organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society bringing together tidy-minded individuals through initiatives such as MCS Beachwatch.

For the past 18 years, the UK charity has attracted volunteers to a national clear-up of our beaches – today around 5,000 of us turn out on more than 400 areas of the coast. But it's not just about picking up rubbish, volunteers are also asked to collect data to help the organisation turn the tide on the kind of litter found on our sands, which not only spoils the view but also threatens wildlife. The worst offenders are plastic bags, fast-food containers, fishing equipment and bathroom and shipping waste.

Individuals can also roll up their sleeves on one of the MCS's Adopt-a-Beach surveys, done four times during a 12-month period to chart seasonal changes in litter type and volume. The next will be held in January and details of your nearest beach clean can be found on the MCS website (mcsuk.org). The really enthusiastic can even elect to "adopt" a beach and run one of the surveys with the MCS's support. Meanwhile, divers are encouraged to get involved in an "underwater clean-up".

The MCS aims to halve the amount of beach litter by 2015. It has just got the agreement of all the major political parties and the Scottish government to produce the first marine litter action plan, which it hopes will be in place by the end of 2011. But the latest published results, from the 2009 survey, reveals that litter on our shores has increased by 75 per cent since the MCS began collecting data in earnest back in 1994. With so many of us keen to keep our beaches clean, why is the amount of rubbish continuing to spiral?

"One of the main reasons is the amount of plastic we're using," says Sue Kinsey, MCS litter policy officer. "Things that were once made of natural materials, which would eventually break down, are now made from plastic – such as the cotton bud sticks that people throw down the toilet, which used to be made of cardboard."

We may be more aware of the impact of rubbish on our environment, but the real problem lies in how our goods are manufactured and marketed. To remedy that will need a real sea change.

Got a travel issue to raise? Email sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones