EACH summer, residents in Myrtleville, Fountainstown and Crosshaven dread the litter that day-trippers bring to their sandy beaches.
Following 2017’s heatwave, Myrtleville Coastal Action Group collected 40 bags of discarded rubbish from the popular Cork coastline.
Now, a new campaign inspired by an Australian movement will see plaques urging beach-lovers to ‘Take 3 For The Sea’ when they finish their seaside outings in Cork Harbour.
The idea is a simple one: if every beach-goer removes three pieces of rubbish when they visit the beach, there will be a small but positive impact on our oceans and coastlines.
Crosshaven resident Audrey Buckley, a Tidy Towns volunteer for 14 years and a member of Crosshaven Development Committee, was inspired to follow in the footsteps of the beach-cleaning movement when she spotted the plaques on social media, she says.
“We are working with our local council to install the plaques at four local beaches for now,” Audrey says, “but we’re hoping that other communities will see this as an opportunity to get behind the program in their area.
“It is such a simple idea: picking up three pieces of litter, bringing it home, and putting it in your recycling bin, or if you are fortunate, in local bins in your area.”
While the issue of ocean plastics and single-use plastic pollution in general is very definitely in the public arena at present, Audrey says that impacting on the on-shore behaviour of litter louts on Co Cork’s beaches is also an important goal.
“In the summer months, people come to the beach and just walk off and leave all their rubbish after them,” she says.
“You can see where people have been sitting because it’s in a circle all around them.
“The council took the bins away from Church Bay because people were dumping household rubbish.
“Myrtleville have had a big problem because people reverse their cars up and throw out binbags of rubbish. It’s just unfortunate, but we’re hoping to change the culture and the thinking, and maybe help local people to feel comfortable to say, ‘Excuse me, are you going to take that with you?’”
Fellow Crosshaven resident Jim Upton also spotted the Take 3 For The Sea initiative online and approached Audrey to offer to fund four plaques, to be made by local sculptor Mick Wilkins in his workshop.
“I can’t say no when someone offers to pay for something, so it all started with Jim’s donation, really,” Audrey says.
But she realised that putting the plaques in place was unlikely to cause change unless they were accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign. Working with Aoife Deane of MaERI, and the Transition Years in Crosshaven secondary school Coláiste Muire, an outreach programme to teach schoolchildren about the project has been devised.
“Children teach their parents,” Audrey says. “I’m a big believer in education because it’s really all about the next generation. Twenty TY students are going out on school visits with Aoife Deane to learn how to spread the word themselves as ambassadors.”
Taking a pro-active, community-led approach is something that comes naturally to Audrey, the daughter of Eddie and Eilish Buckley, who ran Crosshaven’s Anchor Bar. She grew up seeing her father in particular take an active role in the community; he was one of the founders of Crosshaven’s Rugby club.
Audrey worked in the US before returning to Cork to raise her family, returning to college to study Community Development at CIT.
An official launch for the Take 3 For The Sea project will take place at Fountainstown beach on the June bank holiday weekend, but in the meantime, Audrey hopes another initiative, the global viral Trashtag Challenge, will kick-start local awareness.
The Trashtag Challenge has seen involvement from people all over the world since the movement went viral in early March.
Although the campaign started in 2015, it was given a boost when a post by Arizona man Byron Román showed Algerian ecologist and activist Drici Tani Younes with his impressive before and after snaps of an area he had cleaned of litter.
Audrey has organised a Crosshaven Trashtag challenge event for this Friday, March 29. Anyone interested, she says, can take part: they only need to bring gloves and bags. Local groups including Brownies, Girl Guides and Scouts will be participating.
“The participants are also asked to take before photos, showing areas full of litter and rubbish, before they begin to clean. Afterwards, people can share their before and after photos, and send them to the Crosshaven Development Committee’s Facebook page and and we will post them online.”
Litter pickers will gather at Crosshaven, Myrtleville, Fountainstown, Church Bay and Fennels Bay, but Audrey says people are welcome to participate wherever they see litter. Both the Take 3 For The Sea initiative and the Trashtag Challenge are people-powered movements that she hopes will have knock-on impacts for the environment in Cork Harbour and beyond.
“It just takes a strong leader to start it, because we need everybody to start talking about it,” she says.
“Ultimately, I hope to be able to stand back and watch it grow.”
Cork Harbour #TrashtagChallenge takes place on Friday, March 29 at 3.30pm. Check Facebook for locations: https://www.facebook.com/CrosshavenDevelopment/