Blown Away by Volunteers’ Wind-erful Efforts at Ramore Head!

On 11 April, five minutes before “kick-off” on a chilly, blustery Tuesday morning, Dave and the Living Seas trainees Emma, Claire and Patrick sat in the truck wondering if anyone would show up for our Big Spring Beach Clean at Ramore Head, Portrush.

We were wrong to think the weather might put off our volunteers, within minutes, a throng of intrepid litter-lifters were crowded around Dave, listening intently to his introduction. He covered health and safety on the shore (essential), before launching into why we were here and what was so important about cleaning our shores and beaches.

Dave gave us the good and the bad; many plastics take centuries to break down completely, microplastics in the ocean can collect toxic substances, and 90% of seabirds are thought to have eaten plastic and have it in their bodies. It’s believed that within a decade or two ALL seabirds with have eaten plastic of some form and when it’s not floating on the surface, plastic can sink to the seafloor. Here it can have dire effects on the delicate habitats, plants and animals that make the seafloor their home. As the plastic begins to degrade it breaks into tiny particles, those toxic microplastics. Fish and small marine animals eat these microplastics, bringing them into the food chain and potentially to your dinner plate!

Dave doing radio interview Ramore Head 2017

With growing awareness and growing dedication to cut plastic waste there is hope! Households are more aware of the need to recycle, local councils are changing the way they process and recycle waste and public opinion is causing many companies to reduce the plastic used; resulting in less plastic being made than otherwise might have.

Our volunteers were then given gloves, litter-pickers and bags. It was time to get started. 25 volunteers, plus the four of us from Ulster Wildlife meant we had enough people to split into two teams. Our plan was to go to opposite ends of the shore and make our way towards the middle and meet there. At first glance it would be easy to think that Ramore Head was litter free, but the rocky environment meant that lots of the rubbish was hidden away in crevices and cracks. Bags were soon being filled and our pile of reclaimed waste was growing.

We could quickly see that the litter here was from a different source to the litter at Kilroot last week; most of that rubbish had come from somewhere else and been washed on to the shore. It was clear that the rubbish at Ramore had come from nearby. It was mostly made up of drinks bottles, cardboard coffee cups, polystyrene food packages, sweetie wrappers, crisp packets; in short, all the things you might have when you go for a picnic at Portrush! This waste may have blown out of the nearby bins or from picnickers and ice cream van customers not correctly disposing of their litter.

Regardless of its source, 35 bags of litter were been removed from the shore thanks to the great effort of our 25 volunteers who braved the elements to help clean up part of our beautiful coast. Our thanks go to them, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful who provided our litter-pickers and bags, and to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council who removed the bags of collected rubbish.

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