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Tackle beach pollution at source, not just with annual litter pick-ups

Solve beach pollution from the source, not just collect garbage every year

. Our guest blogger Zoe Casey participated in the annual beach cleanup event on the Belgian coast. This is what she found.

From broken plastic shards and old cigarettes, to ropes and fishing lines entwined with seaweed, straw wrappers and dog poop bags, during the annual beach clean-up event held on Sunday, the 25th, there is a large amount of garbage on the Belgian coast to pick up. March.

More than 3,000 people went to the beach under the light gray sky and the cold breeze of 8 degrees Celsius, and a total of 5.5 tons of garbage were cleared in 16 places along the coast. There are as many as 3,000 pieces of garbage per kilometer of beaches that should not have existed.

I stopped at one of my favorite places on the coast, De Haan. With plastic bags and yellow gloves, I joined a group of positive people. "I'm here to keep our coast clean. The beach is clean, but there is a lot of rubbish in the forest behind the dunes," a volunteer said. "We played with our two children on the sea, and at the same time showed them the importance of not throwing out rubbish and the hazard to nature," another said.

We found that small pieces of plastic hidden in sea shells will eventually decompose into microplastics, which may eventually enter the stomachs of North Sea creatures (such as shrimp and shoe soles). A group of people even dragged a discarded tire from the shallows.

According to the organizers, the annual clean-up event, which has entered its ninth year, is becoming more and more popular, helping to raise awareness of the scale of beach trash. This is of course a good thing, but there is also a darker side. Why is it necessary for citizens to voluntarily pick up rubbish? Shouldn't the problem be solved at the source by reducing the production of plastics—especially single-use plastics—and preventing ships from dumping trash into the sea instead of shifting responsibility to volunteers? Do companies sponsoring and facilitating clean-up efforts use it to show that they care, when in fact they haven’t taken any measures to solve the problem?

EU Environmental Commissioner Karmenu Vella joined Blankenberge's cleanup. He told the media that the committee is advancing measures to deal with marine waste, including circular economy package plans, plastic strategies and marine strategic framework directives. At the same time, he also hopes to include the issue of marine garbage pollution on the international agenda of the G7 and G20.

Call to follow everyone of #MarineLitter and #Plastic Pollution! You can learn more here https://t.co/DZLKQB3fOo If you missed our Facebook livestream today on #Blankenberge #EUbeachcleanup, please watch here https://t.co/zEt0ym6aub pic.twitter .com/tFsBCqNH5h

-Karmenu Vella (@KarmenuVella) March 25, 2018

"The idea is not to continue cleaning up the beach, avoiding marine debris is a long-term solution," he said, and I totally agree.

After wandering on the sand dunes and the beach for about an hour and a half, I stopped for coffee at the beach bar. I noticed a cup of colorful plastic straws on the counter, as well as the cake and mini chocolate bars individually wrapped in plastic that came with my coffee. It suddenly occurred to me that, although necessary, beach cleaning is a carpet that can be used to clean up real problems—the plastic straws, fishing tackle waste and plastic water bottles shouldn’t even be there. It is not our responsibility to clean up the beach-although I do not condone those who litter-it is the authorities, institutions, plastic manufacturers and retailers that need to step up their actions.

"It suddenly occurred to me that although beach cleaning is necessary, it is a carpet used to solve the real problem-those plastic straws, fishing tackle waste and plastic water bottles shouldn't even be there."

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