BEACH LITTER: An Open Letter to Councillors

BEACH LITTER: An Open Letter to Councillors at South Beach Radio - News & Views for Blyth, Northumberland
Photo Credit: Heather Peacock / North East Beach Clean
jess - Reporter at South Beach Radio
Written 4 months ago by Jess Keller

Litter left on beaches is a huge issue along the North East coast. Concerned with the state of the sands and dunes in North Tyneside, campaigner Heather Peacock has wrote an open letter to her local councillors asking for their help to address the sitauation.

Should the litter problem on Blyth beach increase, this is something we may need to do too.

Heather Peacock is a part of North East Beach Clean - a group of volunteers who organise regular litter picks across the region's beaches.

The Letter

Dear Councillors,
 
Re: Littering and antisocial behaviour in North Tyneside.
 
Last weekend I was saddened and appalled at the level of littering and antisocial behaviour that took place along our beautiful coastline.
 
On the evening of Friday 29th May, I was alerted to a situation on Kind Edwards Bay where there were multiple mass gatherings of young people, who had come to the beach to get drunk.
 
The beach was littered to a devastating effect, which led to a friend and I picking up 6 bin liners full of rubbish, which included many bottles of beer, cheap wine, spirits, small gas canisters, and clothing.
 
On Saturday and Sunday I have picked up 4 bin liners full of rubbish from Longsands, and 3 bin liners full from King Edwards Bay. Since then, my story has been shared in regional press and I have taken time to reflect on the situation, before writing to council members.
 
This situation is not something new.
 
Every year, as soon as the sun comes out, (more often than not on a weekend) this happens. As a council, I know you know this, but we have this year on year and as a local resident - in my view - it’s getting worse. At best it makes going to the beach unpleasant and at worst, it makes going unsafe. We don’t want to feel intimidated in this way or for the beaches to be mis-used and abused in this way any longer.
 
I am not a strategist, and I don’t have all the answers – this is a starting point but I would like to share some of my observations thoughts and suggestions with you.
 
1) There is a large community of people that care about this issue locally, who voluntarily clean the beaches. In particular, please see “Beach Clean North East” on Facebook as this is now documenting people’s efforts across the borough and wider North East region.
 
2) There is a sense of growing frustration within the community that this issue comes back year on year.
 
3) 2 years ago, there was a rally in Cullercoats Bay (which I attended) at which Norma Redfearn said that this kind of behaviour was unacceptable – little has changed since then.
 
4) I am aware you have an environment sub-committee that reports directly on this issue, and would like to find out more specifically about the current strategy and tactics that have been used / are planning to be used.
 
5) Of the 154 regions in England, North Tyneside is the 4th worst in the country for admission episodes (to hospital) for alcohol-specific conditions in under 18’s (Alcohol Consumption IS a major issue, not only for anti-social behaviour, but also as a burden on our health and social care systems) (https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles/data#page/3/gid/1938132984/pat/6/par/E12000001/ati/102/are/E08000022/iid/92904/age/173/sex/4/cid/4/page-options/ovw-do-0_car-ao-1_car-do-0)
 
6) This issue needs a concerted and collaborative effort between community residents, Council, Police, and the Voluntary / Charity sector (Like Surfers Against Sewage) that isn’t just reactionary after an event has occurred.
 
a. I am starting to gather a picture of where there is effort, but don’t yet have the full picture.
 
7) There is a HUGE opportunity here for North Tyneside to become a leading light on tackling this issue not just with short term measures but by smart marketing and education that engages with the primary offenders in their own digital environments, as well as physical spaces.
 
a. I found this really interesting case study that looked at a community-based social marketing anti-littering campaign (from San Francisco) which aimed to tackle exactly the same problem that we’re facing and is really worth reading – especially the Review of Barriers, Motivators and Marketing Tactics https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-13020-6_23
 
b. We need MORE than tweets and facebook posts saying ‘please don’t litter’ this simply doesn’t work. Here are other campaigns and tactics (essentially based around the phrase ‘Don’t be a Tosser’) used by Keep Britain Tidy, and the New Zealand and Australian Governments, but we have an amazing hub of creativity in the North East – we could even aspire to do something better.
iii. Maybe a schools competition to create a poster – as has been done for road safety? This would include education as well as a visual presence on the beach.
 
8) In the short term, we need more bins and more collections – The council needs better BINFRASTRCTURE (yes, this is apparently a real term! I have learnt a lot this week.)
 
a. We KNOW when the weather is going to bring hoards of people to the beach. Let's be proactive - we need more bins across the beach and not just at each end or up a flight of steps. I understand that the vehicle that was used for this on Longsands broke down and was never fixed or replaced. I would like to know why.
 
i. I have witnessed people’s attempts at putting their rubbish in bags, but them simply leaving that on the beach and the seagulls tearing them apart. This has been common (in particular on Longsands beach since the removal of the bins. People can’t be bothered to carry their rubbish off the beach.
b. I appreciate that this may be more costly, but what is the subsequent cost of the clean-up effort and the cost to the environment without them?
 
9) We need greater consideration about whether alcohol should be allowed AT ALL on the beaches. Without alcohol, there would be much less littering and greatly reduced anti-social behaviour. I personally would be in favour of a complete ban.
 
10) We need better (bigger) signage across all beaches – that send a positive message about cleaning up, that links into a proper borough wide campaign. This could be built on year on year.
 
11) There is an opportunity with Beach Wardens. Is it worth considering these as ‘Beach Guardians” – that could also link up with volunteers who had a small amount of training that are willing to talk to groups on the beaches where it was felt safe to do so??
a. I did this over the weekend and gave bin liners out to groups who weren’t smashing glass. Some people just don’t think about how they’re going to clean up and it’s too much hassle. It was a simple idea that was pretty well received. I do think that there is an opportunity here (see appendix of study listed above which highlights individuals that may engage in passive littering as opposed to active littering; i.e., littering is not the intention; rather the individual forgets
b. I have spoken to the local Surfers Against Sewage rep about this and they’re also thinking of doing some community ‘outreach’ type work, in a similar way to the RNLI Beach campaigners do.
c. The RNLI need to be reinstated as quickly as possible to also help (This is obviously a separate issue)
 
12) Better / more joined up information on what the police are doing. We ultimately need to be able to take action against people that disrespect the environment in this way. I’ve seen today that South Shields are taking stronger stance on this issue, and that also Northumbria Police have put news out on their own channels today.
Councillors, there has to be a better way to tackle, manage and sustain this issue. I have attached some images of the rubbish i collected at the weekend, and I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Sent to the following councillors (My local Tynemouth representatives, North Tyneside Mayor, Head of Environment, Leisure and Housing, and Head of Service) Also Copied in Marcus Jackson who i'm told is in charge of looking after the team who looks after the bins and is a very nice guy!:
 

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