Beach clean-ups-the flip side | Sunday Observer

Beach clean-ups-the flip side

“I also point a very big finger at manufacturers and retailers, and supermarkets for all the plastic they dump into the environment and take no responsibility for recycling and cleaning up of the damaged areas like the beach. Many have CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects but the damage they do to the environment far outweighs the benefits of these projects. “

A follow-up to the article published on June 16.

On June 22, I went to the Wellawatte beach in the evening and was absolutely amazed and overjoyed to see how beautiful and clean it was. It was so much like I could remember in the good old days of my childhood. I found out that it was cleaned by a company in Avissawella known for their commitment to the environment.

As I wasn’t sure how good the photos will be as the sun was setting, I went early the next morning with the hope of taking a better photograph and was absolutely shocked to see how full of rubbish it was - just like it was before - maybe even worse.

It was all rubbish that had been washed up from the ocean, the canals after the rain the previous night. This shows how massive this ocean pollution problem is. I looked at the items of plastic lying on the beach – besides many plastic bags there were yoghurt cups, margarine containers, plastic plates, cups, styrofoam cups, broken toys, shoes, polythene wrappers, straws, biscuit wrappers to name some. I was full of despair.

I knew profoundly that beach clean-ups are a band-aid solution. We have to stop/reduce using plastic. We just have to do this as manufacturers, retailers, consumers and citizens.

When I talk about reducing the use of plastic bags the response usually is ‘the government should ban it’. Yes of course a ban and fines are good, but I say WE can be responsible citizens and care for the earth as well. Of course this takes effort.

I also point a very big finger at manufacturers and retailers, and supermarkets for all the plastic they dump into the environment and take no responsibility for recycling and cleaning up of the damaged areas like the beach. Many have CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects but the damage they do to the environment far outweighs the benefits of these projects.

These CSR projects are a drop in the ocean compared to the problems these organizations create. One person who I showed the photos of the beach to said, ‘we should go and dump all the rubbish from the items we get from supermarkets back on their doorstep, like we give back the fruits of the earth when we compost!’

I would like to see organizations that produce all the items we see on the beach, find avenues for recycling or even payingpeople to clean up the beach. Perhaps, this could be employment for some people living by the beach.

Then there are the small businesses – our ‘bothalkadeys’ that collect this material – if they were subsidized to give a better price to people by these companies, people may have more of an incentive to not throw things away. Far-fetched? Surely, factoring in the cost to the environment should be part of manufacturing costs or operating costs of every business.

Perhaps, a ‘green tax’ that could be used to assist recycling projects or developing alternative packaging projects may also be something to consider.

In this present age we all have a responsibility to reduce our rubbish; this is a worldwide problem. Plastic reduction is the most essential part of this.

Today, I did a program for little children living by the beach to engage them to love the gifts of the environment - because I believe, if we love something we will do something about it.

So I teach about gratitude for the wonderful gifts of nature, the stark reality of what we destroy – animals, marine life, birds, the impact on humans, particularly, those living near the rubbish heaps. I then help them to connect with feelings of sorrow for what we destroy through the programs I do for various groups.

I know my efforts are a drop in the ocean.

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