Tag - beach cleaning

Plastic-Free Beaches: An eco-travel update from Grenada

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. section seperator

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. section seperator


Man-Made Beaches – from Grooming to Construction

Man-made beach north of Phuket with a romantic beach construction, a green heart, and sunbeds facing the Andaman Sea.

Why man-made beaches?

We like our beaches to be clean, comfortable, and stunning. We want soft white sand and coconut palms. So what happens when a beach does not live up to our criteria of safety, comfort, and beauty? Sometimes we groom it, and sometimes we cover up the small “natural mistakes” with a little landscaping. If we have no beach or island at all, we can just construct it! From grooming to construction of beaches, not many popular beaches of the world are untouched by human “beach optimization”.

The construction of beaches

Natural forces like gravity, tides, and the large water masses of the sea are the main creators of beaches. Actually sediments of sand originate from the weathering of rocks resulting from natural elements such as water, wind, and sun. Consequently, changes in weather conditions will have an impact on the characteristics of beaches. A good example of how natural phenomena can change beaches is the terrifying tsunami in 2004 that hit coasts in the Indian and South Asian Ocean.

Many popular beaches around the world are not only a result of natural forces, but are actually to some degree man-made. The degree to which beaches are constructed varies a great deal, and it is all done in an attempt to create safe, comfortable, and attractive beaches that attract visitors.

Beach construction continuum

Here are examples of how beach construction can take place from minor grooming to one hundred percent man-made:

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  • Beach cleaning
  • Beach nurturing and raking
  • Minor landscaping such as adding sandbags
  • Removal of sharp rocks and pebbles
  • Importing sand and palm trees
  • Artificial platform beaches
  • Heavy machinery construction of beaches and bays
  • Man-made islands

At the light end of the scale, beaches are nourished and cleaned from garbage and ocean debris, while some beaches are raked daily to make the beach look as neat and inviting as possible.

Workers in Goa groom a beach and remove beach garbage to keep the beach tidy and attractive

Beach grooming and garbage removal helps keeping the beach attractive

Other beaches are constructed with sandbags with sand strewn over them in order to save some beach for the high tides, protect buildings on the beach from incoming waves, and to create a safety wall for erosion and potential floodings.

Sandbags and a fence protect a nice Malaysian beach from erosion and high tides.

Malaysian beach elevated and protected from erosion and tides by sandbags and fences

Sandbags protect the beach and beach properties from erosion at Koh Phayam, Thailand

Sandbags protect the beach and bungalows at Koh Phayam, Thailand

Some beaches are re-constructed after storms and landscaped to both satisfy visitor preferences and to withstand rough weather conditions.

Man-made beaches in Khao Lak Thailand with sandbags and heavy machinery constructing the beach

Beach construction in north Khao Lak, Thailand

Artificial beach platform on the shore of Koh Tao with the blue sea and a boat in the background

This beach platform is safe from high tides

Moving towards more manmade beaches, there are hundreds of seaside resorts that don’t actually have a proper beach. To satisfy and attract clients, they sometimes construct a plain area with concrete and add a layer of sand on top. It is also common that resorts simply remove all boulders and pebbles with heavy machinery and then import sand.

Constructed beach area at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa - Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

Constructed beach area at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa in Malaysia

Artificial beach deck with beach chairs and sea view at Koh Tao, Thailand

This man-made beach deck will not be affected by high tide

On far end of the scale of beach construction, we have destinations such as Singapore’s Sentosa Island and Dubai’s manmade islands. Sentosa Island is basically a theme park and weekend holiday oasis for Singaporeans and visitors who want a quick escape from the city. The island’s three main beaches Palawan Beach, Siloso Beach and Tanjong Beach are all artificial with imported sand from Malaysia and Indonesia. The boulders on the beach also seem artificial, as they have a hollow sound and feel when you knock on them. Sentosa Island still has a lot of forested areas, and there is an abundant wildlife of monkeys, lizards, and birds.

At the extreme end of man-made beaches and islands we have projects such as the entirely constructed Palm Jumeirah (Palm Islands) and The World Islands of Dubai. Most of the plots and houses here are owned by billionaires. There is a ghost town feeling about these islands, since they are rarely used by their rich owners. Shops and local life is a scarcity here, especially during the summer months. The huge beach villas lie untouched like a forsaken barbie glamour town.

Artificial pond and island in Dubai with palms and Burj al Arab in the background

Dubai is famous for man-made beaches and islands

Aerial view of the man-made Dubai Palms, Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali of Dubai, UAE.

The 100% man-made Palm Islands of Dubai

Photo credits: Castles Made of Sand

More on beach construction and man-made beaches

If you like to know the theory and science behind beach construction, take a look at Beachapedia. It has a great number of examples of man-made beaches and guidelines on how to construct a beach.

We also found some great articles on artificial beaches. You may be surprised how many beaches around the world are actually much more than beautiful shorelines constructed by Mother Nature.

12 Incredible Artificial and Man-Made Beaches

 Nature vs. Nurture: Are Manmade Beaches Better?
by Flight Centre

 World’s must stunning man-made beaches
by Fox News