Beachmeter
Beach Cleaning of plastic and debris

Guest post by Aaron Salyer, The Dharma Trails.

Grenada is truly a paradise

It’s a green, gem surrounded by stunning beaches and The Caribbean Sea. We’ve been lucky enough to spend some time here over the last couple of years and feel so blessed.

Unfortunately, though, there seems to be no escaping the dreaded plastic debris. We can’t help but feel the need to clean-up the beaches whenever possible.

Beaches Affected the Most

While the long, white, sandy beach of the tourist area stays relatively clean, many of the smaller, lesser known beaches are in dire need of help.

We beach-walk most days and see the reality of the situation. There seems to be a couple of areas which are affected the most, frequently calling for some beach cleaning :

  • Beaches with river mouths – some of the best beaches in Grenada (in our opinion) have shallow river mouth openings that you can cross on lower tides. We’ve noticed that these beaches also seem to be a hotspot for trash. It is likely that the debris is making its way down the river system and out into the sea, only to wash up on the beach.
  •  Beaches popular for parties – we love a good beach party as much as the next person. But we’ve noticed a few of the popular local beach hangout spots are becoming duping grounds for party waste. There’s often no bins in these remote areas so items are simply left on the ground.

What we’ve learnt from being here is that there is still a bit of disconnection between products, waste and environmental impact.

Grenada is by no means the worst. On a recent trip to Jamaica we were shocked by the sheer scale of plastic beach pollution found on the less touristy beaches. The same happened on a recent trip to Bali and we even noticed plastic beach pollution when back home in Australia.

What kind of trash is there?

So, what are we finding on our daily clean-ups? Well, it differs at the two different beach types:

  • Beaches with river mouths – on these beaches we find a lot of plastic bottles, bottle caps, straws, micro plastics from various sources
  • Beaches popular for parties – on these beaches there is a lot of takeaway containers, plastic cutlery, plastic bottles and plastic bags

What does the trash mean?

With so many plastic bottles, caps and straws at beaches with river mouths it is likely that there are inadequate waste disposal locations upstream and that bottles are making their way into the rivers.

At party locations it is obvious that people are bringing party supplies and leaving them when done.

What kind of volume do we collect?

We typically pick up anywhere from the equivalent of 4 to 10 shopping bags worth.

Usually, we bring our own reusable bags to collect the trash. Depending on the bin situation we will put the trash directly into the bin and keep our bags. If a bin is already overflowing or not properly contained, we will put the trash into old shopping bags (or ones that we find on the clean-up).

Grenada is in dire need of their own plastic recycling centre. This would be ideal for us to take the trash to directly.

Couple sitting among beach debris and plastic remains

Why does it matter?

Plastic is quickly suffocating the natural environment, especially the marine environment. We’ve noticed seabirds picking through the trash and know that micro-plastics are entering the ocean on a daily basis.

With micro-plastic being consumed by fish, it is likely that these plastics will later be consumed by local people. Micro plastics have already been found in human waste. What that means for human health, we’re still not sure.

What’s being done?

It’s not all bad news. We’ve noticed some positive impacts in the last couple of years (in terms of beach clean-ups):

  • At one of the main river entrance beaches that we walk/ do beach clean-ups on, they have recently added a few new bins at the beach entrance so that it can fit more trash in (and hopefully encourage more people to put their trash in once finished)
    • We even saw a local guy cleaning up this beach. He was being paid per bag of trash by the owner of the nearby property
  • There’s been a clean-up push by a couple of the local hotels and businesses:
    • True Blue Hotel in particular are greening up their practices. They organise beach cleans for their staff and willing guests, and have a recycling storage program on their site
    • Dive Grenada are running ocean clean-ups and take divers along busy reefs to clean up trash

What’s next for our Grenada Beach Clean Ups?

We will continue to do our beach clean-ups while we are staying on this beautiful island.

Through our platform we like to encourage others to take action towards cleaning up the environment (especially beaches and the marine ecosystem). We hope that Grenada, and many other places around the world can tighten up laws on single use plastic items and make reusable items the standard.

We are lucky enough to come from a state in Australia where the plastic bag has been banned. And we know from historical programs, such as a plastic bag tax, that this can significantly reduce the demand for single use plastic items.

As consumers become more active in their choices towards sustainable products, the demand will change. We need to demand change. No longer will plastic bottles washing up on these beautiful beaches be tolerated.

This all comes down to awareness. And what makes awareness? Connection through a universal medium. Like art.

Is Trash Art the New Pop Culture?

We’ve found that trash art is a great way to create a discussion in a relatable way. Last year (while on the island) we made a few trash art pieces that we used to promote and encourage others around the world to join us for a global beach clean. It worked. We had hundreds of people all over the world comment and send us their own images of beach clean ups and trash art projects.

We’ve recently teamed up with a local artist on the island who is making some incredible art sculptures out of recycled plastic waste all while ensuring plastic-free beaches.

There is a huge potential to integrate local communities and educational programs.

How to join a beach cleaning?

Anyone can do their own beach clean-up with a bag and preferably a pair of gloves. However, if you’d rather join a larger, organised beach cleaning there are some platforms you can use:

There are also great online incentives, like #take3forthesea. A social media platform that shares and encourages people to pick up 3 pieces of trash on their beach visit.

Beach clean-ups are a great activity to integrate into your vacations if you are wanting to become a more responsible eco traveller. Learn more about eco travel, or things to do in Grenada, here.

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About the Author

Aaron is one of the co-founders of The Dharma Trails, a platform for encouraging and celebrating eco travel and a sustainable lifestyle.

With a background in marine eco-tourism and coastal protection, his passion for the sea has taken him around the globe to find and enhance some of the world’s best beaches.

With eco travel guides and sustainable practice highlights, The Dharma Trails is hoping to help shape a greener future.

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