Most of the blog posts at Shades of Green are focused on the small changes that Tamara and I (Emma) are making to create a greener world (i.e. buying organic food or cutting down on water usage), but this month, we are highlighting the work of local community activists.
This time we are focusing on the efforts of Lara Skingsley, the organiser of the Southsea Beachwatch since 2015, who is helping to keep our beachfront free of litter through monthly clean ups with large groups of volunteers (sometimes up to 400!).
These cleanups, which take place on the first Saturday of each month, are part of an initiative by the Marine Conservation Society to keep all human-made rubbish (and recycling) out of our oceans while leaving natural materials in place to support wildlife.
Lara sat down with me in late February (via Twitter) to explain why she organises these cleans, what we can do as individuals to keep our seaside litter free, and what Portsmouth City Council should be doing to reduce the amount of rubbish on Southsea seafront.
Keeping Southsea Clean
Lara, a former student of Marine Environmental Science, explains that she’s always loved nature, particularly coastal wildlife, and wanted to do something practical to target marine pollution, which is why she got involved with the cleans.
She said: “Beach cleans ‘do good’ instantly, and help to raise awareness of environmental issues… As well as keeping Southsea looking beautiful, cleaning the beach of litter makes it safe for people, pets, and wildlife.”
Throughout the course of the beach cleans, Lara and her team have collected tens of thousands of items of rubbish – including a catheter and colostomy bag, a bovine skull, and an intact light bulb as large as a child’s head – but the vast majority of the waste is plastic, as evidenced in the 2017 Great British Beach Clean Survey.
Lara advises that there are many ways to reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up on the beach, but the most important would probably be cutting our dependence of single-use plastic, which is why she’s made the decision not to use any plastic straws, takeaway cups, or single-use plastic bottles in 2018.
The role of Portsmouth City Council
Another issue of key importance to Lara is what Portsmouth City Council can do to keep Southsea clean, from improving the designs of bins on the seafront (so that rubbish can’t blow out and wildlife can’t get in) to strengthening regulations on local businesses and construction projects with regards to waste disposal and secure storage of materials.
Lara said: “PCC should ensure that local construction and businesses keep their waste and materials appropriately secured. For example, recently an open skip next to South Parade Pier was left uncovered for weeks and despite people reporting it to PCC, nothing was done to cover it, so the material littered the beach. We also find a lot of disposable and novelty items, like take-out coffee cups, lids, straws, and balloons. Seafront business should be encouraged to be more responsible for the products they buy, sell, and throw away.”
Want to get involved?
Southsea Beach Watch is always looking for new people to join their ranks. If you’d like to get involved in one of the upcoming beach cleans, then check Southsea Beachwatch’s Facebook and other social media pages for upcoming dates (next one is 10am-noon on April 7th!), locations, and any cancellations/amendments due to inclement weather.
Yours truly tried to attend the March event, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to the Beast from the East. Good thing, I checked their Insta!
If you’re planning to attend and can bring your own thick gloves (the sort used in gardening) and/or litter pickers then please do, as Lara has limited supplies of both. She does provide bin bags for collection though.
Lara said of the volunteers: “I’m always inspired by the thoughtful and positive local people who join these cleans and who enthusiastically care about our shoreline and wider environment.”
What about if I can’t do those Saturday beach cleans?
Some of us will have other commitments on Saturdays (work, sporting events, etc) which make it near impossible to make Southsea Beachwatch’s events – I once couldn’t get a Saturday off to go to Pride, so I don’t think my boss would have let me take the morning off for this.
That’s why Lara recommends the Two-Minute Beach Clean; an initiative where you do what you can in the time that you have.
Waiting on the beach for a friend to meet you? Pick up some litter and pop it in a bin.
Walking home via the beach? Pick up any litter you spot as you walk.
Going to the beach? Volunteer to take the rubbish to the bin for your friends/family so that none of it gets dropped en route.
Now, dear reader, I turn the floor to you. Have you gotten involved in one of the beach cleans? What do you think we can do to reduce rubbish on our seafronts? And what should PCC do to combat the problem? Let us know in the comments section.