Coronavirus has probably led to less floating rubbish this year
I once tried to teach very young children how to dance the minuet, they were very keen because The Wombles were at the top of the pop charts with Minuetto Allegretto. I was more a fan of their litter picking and recycling habits in the children's programme rather than their music. I think of myself now as a sort of water womble.
Most days I 'patrol' for 5 to 10 mins, picking up plastic and polystyrene in a small corner of Falmouth harbour.
So far this Spring and early Summer, the floating rubbish has been a lot less than this time last year. No organised events nearby due to Covid-19 meant no plastic beer glasses and polystyrene takeaway boxes. Fewer storms in March and April, saw less rain washing litter into the harbour and no strong winds blowing bins around.
A lot of the plastic I collect is full of sea squirts and algae, and looks like it has been floating for a long time. I read recently in the Hakai magazine that at Queens University in Northern Ireland research has found that 98% of marine plastics that they tested were harbouring antibiotic resistant bacteria. See original article here .
Plastic debris is so extensive in our seas, that it is becoming a new habitat and ecosystem. It also could be seriously stopping light to lower levels, which must have a detrimental affect on sea floor habitats
Decomposing plastics may even be attracting tube-nose seabirds like kittiwakes as they emit similar gases to large amounts of krill or plankton. Other seabirds who normally digest algae are possibly eating plastics due to the same DMS gases. Science magazine article by Sid Perkins here
Unfortunately there will be plenty of floating rubbish in our oceans to investigate these theories for many years to come.
I can see how turtles think that plastic bags are their food, I once picked up a jellyfish thinking it was piece of cellophane. It is very sad, but I don't think we have had a sail for years without seeing a plastic bottle or bag.
Old landfills were often sited near the coast and the higher sea levels are eroding them away. Crisps packets over 20 years old have been found on beaches virually intact. I remember sitting on a beach in Gibraltar with my parents in the 90's and a dustbin truck tipped it's load yards away from the Mediterranean sea. Since 2003 Gibraltar has sent its waste into Spain after facing condemnation from Spanish environmental groups and the EU.
I think Sir David Attenborough's many TV programmes have made a lot of people reconsider what they buy and how it is packaged. Plastic is an amazing material, but making it for a single use to then be thrown away is madness.
Hopefully the harbour will continue to improve after the pandemic. I have noticed fewer straws and cotton buds over the last year. Now with them being outlawed, it will be even better, I hope one day we can do without plastic chocolate bar wrappers and crisp packets.
Falmouth has a great community and many of the local businesses have joined the Plastic Free Falmouth campaign. This group has really made a difference, cleaning the rivers and harbour, asking local cafes to consider change their straws and takeaway packaging.
It is amazing how a few people can make a big difference. Check out their Facebook page
Plastic Free Eco Preneurs
Now that we are all more used to shopping online, it is easier to find plastic free alternatives from small businesses such as :
Plastic Detox make wonderful smelling household cleaning products, as well as personal toiletries, all without harsh detergents or plastic packaging. Using natural oils like lemon, lavender, thyme, tea tree and rose geranium, it is like aromatherapy whilst you clean! I can recommend the Lemon Syllabub dish washing up bar, it smells delicious.