Time to stop killing our seaside

Rubbish on Blackpool beach
Rubbish on Blackpool beach
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Today, The Gazette is joining the war against plastic.

As the Fylde coast prepares to welcome a surge of tourists taking advantage of the Easter weekend to enjoy all the region has to offer, we are calling on local businesses to back a campaign to reduce the number of disposable bottles washing up on our beaches.

As the the new holiday season gets underway, we want 200 cafes, restaurants, hotels, guesthouses, and diners to back ReFILL by pledging to top up water bottles for free. The idea is to welcome in tourists and locals – with research showing 70 per cent are put off asking for tap water through a simple fear of asking – through a sticker posted in the window.

It says ‘free tap water ReFILLs available here’, and tells people they can ReFILL instead of buying a new bottle to ‘keep our beautiful beaches plastic bottle free’.

The scheme has been trialled elsewhere and has recently launched here too – and we want to help make it a resounding success.

Stephanie Wyatt from LOVEmyBEACH, which runs the scheme, said: “The idea is basic really. The biggest drawback about people asking for water is the idea they will be told to get lost or buy something.

“We thought we would break down that barrier.”

Early adopters of the scheme include the Lord Derby pub, Ashton Garden Cafe, New Market Cafe, Ocean Cafe at the YMCA, Elbourne’s Tea Emporium, West Coast Cafe at YMCA, Le Roti, Berries Cafe, Bijou of Lytham, and Park View 4U Cafe. Alice’s in Wonderland and The Venue in Cleveleys, The Fish House in Fleetwood, and Keighley House and Clifton Court Hotel in Blackpool have also signed up, as has the Tourist Information Centre on the Promenade.

Carol Elbourne from Elbourne’s Tea Emporium, in Park Road, said she put the sticker up after a customer of hers, Jim, asked her if she would back it.

She said: “Why not? There’s so much plastic rubbish and people should have access to water. A lot of people like the idea – but it will take a while.”

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard is backing the scheme.

He said: “I am deeply concerned by the impact single-use plastics have on our environment. You only have to walk along the beach at Cleveleys to see just what a mess we are making of our seas.

“While I greatly appreciate the work done by the volunteers and professionals who carry out regular beach clean ups, it should not be left to somebody else to solve this problem. We all have a responsibility to prevent pollution in our oceans and prevent the amount of plastic which ends up on our beaches.

“The LOVEmyBEACH ReFILL scheme is a great example of how communities can come together to make a difference. I have begun contacting businesses within my own constituency to make them aware of the scheme and urging them to get involved.

“I am pleased to see The Gazette backing this campaign and helping make a difference in our town.”

The first major business to back the scheme nationally is Whitbread, which pledged to offer free drinking water for customers and passers-by in each of its 3,000 Costa Coffee and Premier Inn firms.

Meanwhile, fast food chain McDonald’s this week announced plans to phase out its use of plastic straws in the UK.

Michael Roberts, from Water UK, which represents the major water providers in the UK, said: “By refilling water bottles, we can all help turn this harmful tide of plastic waste. This country has some of the best drinking water in the world and we want everyone to benefit from it. This scheme will do that by making it easier for people to ReFILL their bottles wherever they work, rest, shop or play.”

Did you know...

Fewer than six in 10 of the 800 plastic bottles sold every minute in the UK are currently recycled.

In Lancashire, 25,000 tonnes of plastic is recycled annually, but the county recycles less than half of all its waste.

Almost 90 per cent of litter on beaches is plastic, with plastic bottles and tops a clear contributor, a recent study by the University of Exeter found.

The Marine Conservation Society’s yearly beach clean results showed a 27 per cent hike in litter – the majority plastic – on UK beaches from 2008 to 2017.

Twelve million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, and there is predicted to be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Government plans ‘deposit return scheme’ to cut plastic bottle waste

Consumers could face paying a deposit on drinks bottles and cans which is repaid when they hand them in for recycling, under Government plans to tackle plastic waste.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed ministers would introduce a deposit return scheme for single use drinks containers such as plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans in England,

subject to consultation.

The move aims to boost recycling rates and cut litter, and comes amid increasing concern over the issue of single use plastic waste, much of which ends up as rubbish polluting the countryside and oceans.

Some countries already have deposit return schemes which charge an upfront deposit on drinks containers, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, that is redeemed when the empty bottle or can is returned.

Mr Gove said: “We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment - killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled.”

Efforts to keep our beaches clean

Council staff begin cleaning work along the access points to the beach from 6am every day, while JCBs are used to remove any washed-up potentially dangerous debris.

During the summer, a tractor and surf rake is used on the sand to sieve and remove litter, leaving it free and of a uniform appearance.

Deputy council leader Gillian Campbell backed The Gazette’s campaign. She said: “This sounds like a great initiative.

“Plastic bottles are a regular sight on many beaches in the country. Our own team here in Blackpool works really hard during their daily beach-cleaning operations to remove them.

“We welcome ideas that can reduce the amount of bottles disposed of incorrectly or irresponsibly, and will look to see how we can support the campaign through our buildings.”

How to sign up

Email editorial@blackpool

gazette.co.uk with the subject line ‘ReFILL’ with a contact name, number, and address, or call (01253) 361726.