Over 46 tonnes of litter removed across Ireland for the Big Beach Clean this September
7,700 incredible volunteers joined forces all across Ireland to remove 12 hippos worth of litter and to take part in a worldwide citizen science project.
To mark Sustainable Development Goal Week, Clean Coasts wants to celebrate the efforts of volunteers working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, not only in September but throughout the whole summer.
In an extraordinary display of environmental stewardship and community spirit, 7,700 Clean Coasts volunteers rolled up their sleeves and removed a staggering over 46 tonnes of litter all across the country as part of the Big Beach Clean. That is the equivalent of 12 hippos!
Supported by Cully and Sully, the Big Beach Clean is part of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) organized by the Ocean Conservancy, and it entails an annual call-to-action for individuals, families, and communities to join forces to carry out a clean-up at the end of the bathing season and join a worldwide citizen science project.
The Big Beach Clean flagship event organised in conjunction with Cully and Sully took place today, Thursday 28th September from 10:30am-12:30pm in Youghal Redbarn Beach, in Cork, to wrap up the initiative. Cully and Sully provided warm soup and kit for supporters who attended. The event marked the end of a successful and busy summer for Clean Coasts volunteers, as well as a celebration of Sustainable Development Goals Week. Among the participants, there were several schools, including 4th class Gaelscoil Chorain, Youghal and Glamire Community College from the city suburbs. Glanmire Community College were eager to collect data about cigarette and vape litter for their BT Young Scientist project.
During the event, volunteers collected an additional 260.5kg of litter, including a couch and door. In addition to the usual litter items, such as cigarette butts and plastic items, volunteers found a Teddy bear and fishing gear. Youghal had been badly hit by Storm Agnes with a roof blowing off a building on Front Strand.
This year’s Big Beach Clean was also part of Clean Coasts 20th anniversary celebrations, and the charity programme was delighted to see volunteers from all walks of life, including community groups, Tidy Towns associations, students, families, local businesses, and environmental enthusiasts, unite with a shared commitment to tackle marine litter.
Cully and Sully, who sponsored the initiative commented: “What a tremendous clean-up effort by the nation again this year. It’s mind blowing to think nearly 8,000 people took some time this September to come clean up Ireland’s shores and waterways. We hope this campaign has helped bring an awareness of the importance of preventing waste, disposing of it correctly and recycling where possible.”
The next crucial step for volunteers who joined the initiative is for them to record the types and quantities of litter they collected on their local coastlines. By participating in this citizen science project, volunteers will contribute valuable data that will shape future campaigns and strategies aimed at preserving our oceans.
By recording the amount and types of litter collected, volunteers contribute to a comprehensive overview of the marine litter problem. The information collected is used to shape Clean Coasts’ campaigns, events and resources for volunteers, initiating targeted actions against the top litter offenders. For instance, in 2022, the top three items recorded during the Big Beach Clean weekend were cigarette butts, plastic food wrappers and plastic pieces. These results were a starting point for the development of the Clean Coasts Anti-Smoking Litter campaign, as well as the creation of new resources for the Break Up With Plastic campaign.
Furthermore, data collected are shared with Ocean Conservancy, who will use the information received to create reports and advocate around the world to tackle ocean trash at a global scale.
Overall summer achievements and Sustainable Development Goals
The success of the Big Beach Clean campaign comes at the end of a summer full of environmental initiatives by local groups.
Clean Coasts is a charity programme, run through the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce, which is one the SDGs Champions for 2023-24. Throughout the summer, Clean Coasts, working in conjunction with local communities, has been working once again towards achieving and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals through a series of initiatives and campaigns, focussing in particular on SDGs 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
Working in partnership with Uisce Éireann to promote the Think Before You Flush and Think Before You Pour campaigns, Clean Coasts hosted 20 events. Among them, Think Before You Flush attended Bord Bia Bloom Festival. The team spent the day chatting to attendees and distributing informational resources. In addition, Mariana Coleman hosted a Think Before You Flush talk to an engaged audience. Moreover, throughout the summer Think Before You Flush started a collaboration with Local Authorities to display educational resources on Blue Flag beaches to help protecting coastal waters from sewage related waste.
During the summer, Clean Coasts also worked with Local Authorities and community groups to promote the #2MinuteBeachClean campaigns, providing beach goers with what they needed to do an impromptu cleanup, and highlighting the benefits of a clean environment on the mind and body.
Clean Coasts also worked with groups promoting the Enjoy And Protect campaign, focusing on the physical and mental benefits of spending time outdoors and protecting our environment. As part of this campaign, volunteers have organised several events, including yoga and beach cleaning series or kayak/SUP clean-ups.
Moreover, Clean Coasts hosted several biodiversity events as well as events to mark Sand Dune Day in Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Mayo and Sligo, to highlight the importance of biodiversity and coastal habitats and what we can do to protect them.
Finally, working with community groups, Clean Coasts developed a campaign and resources to help people learn more about the impact of smoking related litter and how to dispose of it correctly.