Maritime Cork: The scourge of plastics in our oceans

Maritime Cork: The scourge of plastics in our oceans
St. Colman's Community College Midleton named as An Taisce Ocean Hero School of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. Pictured with the awards were, (Back Row L-R) Sinéad McCoy, Clean Coasts Coastal Communities Manager; Rhys Lewis-Horgan; Shane Bakx; Ben O'Callaghan; Nicholas Leahy; Proinsias Ó Tuama, Teacher St. Colman's Community College, Midleton, Front Row L-R: Susan Vickers, Clean Coasts Officer Cork & Kerry; Leah Canty; Libby McPhee; and Pat McKelvey, Director of Schools Cork ETB. Photo: Cathal Noonan

“There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the oceans and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world….” 

Those words, written thousands of years ago, were contained in the Sunday Mass Gospel a week ago. I wonder how many people took notice? To me they seemed particularly relevant to the current debate about climate change.

They were brought further to mind this week when the latest figures about ocean pollution showed that drinks bottles are the most common type of plastic waste in the seas. 480 billion plastic bottles were sold around the world last year, less than 50 per cent were collected for recycling and only 7 per cent were turned into new bottles.

Students of St. Colman’s Community College in Midleton have seen a lot of plastic bottles. They’ve taken many of them off East Cork beaches. A few weeks ago in this column, we showed you one which they found after it had been floating around the seas for 56 years before it arrived on the Cork coastline.

Their teacher Proinsias Ó Tuama has extraordinary dedication towards protecting and conserving local beaches in East Cork.

I first met him on an interview for my maritime radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION – which listeners have now described as “Ireland’s maritime talk show”. I rather like that.

He told me how his students were cleaning local beaches of litter. Their dedication and his leadership impressed me. The judges of An Taisce’s national Ocean Heroes competition have been impressed too. In an unprecedented feat in the history of this competition, the Midleton students have won it for the fourth year in a row. 

Many schools from around the country competed for the award and showed the level of interest young people have in the marine environment. Adults take note.

The student’s comments are interesting: ”I couldn’t believe how much rubbish we picked up,” said Josh Coakley. 

Jake Shaw: “It appals me that people leave so much rubbish on our beaches.” The students are “passionate and committed” to keeping the “beautiful coastline of East Cork clean.” They worked with community groups, such as ‘Clean Coasts Ballynamona’ to maintain the Blue Flag and Green Coast status of beaches.

500 students have been involved for the last three-and-a-half years, during which tons of plastic, including many of those bottles, as well as tyres and other rubbish have been removed from beaches. Proinisias estimates that they have contributed the equivalent of €60,000 in labour costs to protecting the coastline.

“Coastal custodians, hopefully inspiring others to join the movement for litter-free seas,” he says.

“An amazing achievement of incredible effort to protect their local coastline, working with the local community to create real change in society’s attitude,” said An Taisce’s Coastal Communities Manager, Sinead McCoy.

It is impressive to see young people so committed to and thoughtful of the marine environment.

76 th ANNIVERSARY OF HARBOUR TRAGEDY 

This Saturday at 11am the ‘Irish Poplar’ tragedy will be remembered at the monument in Cobh to five local men who were drowned on the night of December 12, 1942. 

During the Second World War they were carrying out a harbour inspection when launches they were using to board the ship collided on a dark and stormy night. Wreaths will be laid outside the old Town Hall at East Beach.

TOM CREAN AT AGHADA 

Actor Aidan Dooley who has made his one-man play about Tom Crean into an international success will bring it to Aghada Community Centre on February 2 to support the Ballinacurra Committee which ‘Remembering Edward Bransfield’ who discovered Antarctica. For more information phone 0876209319 Email: tommacsweeneymarine@gmail TOMORROW: Echo Sport Sailing

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