To Clean or Not To Clean?

South West Rocks beach in NSWI hear about beach clean-ups a lot. Every few weekends there is another group of concerned locals (and sometimes not-so-locals) who gather together for a few hours with bin bags and rubber gloves ready to go fight the litter strewn on the beach. Possibly followed by a well-earned drink and thoughtful musings over the sunrise/sunset ocean.

It’s a great thing to do for your local beach. But when you come back the next day there’s still more… And more after that. Because the tide washes some up, but also because not everyone out there cares so much.

I’m on holiday on the East Coast of Australia at the moment, having a little road trip visiting all those beautiful beaches that we’ve all heard about. And I was really surprised by the amount of litter we found in even the remotest places. I’d hope that some of this was just washed ashore on the currents… (which also makes you realise how much is really out there). But I’ve also seen people carelessly chucking away those picnic wrappers, throwing cans out of the window, stubbing out cigarettes in the sand…

What I want to know is: whose responsibility is it to clean up this rubbish? How far are you willing to go to confront someone who is littering? Should you leave it to the park and reserve rangers to come along later and clean up, or should you constantly carry a bag and a pair of rubber gloves around to pick up after other people? And why should it be you that does it?

It’s a moral dilemma in a way. How much do you care about the environment, how far will you go? Every piece of litter that you pick up is pollution that won’t become part of the marine environment. But when a family leaves a nice fresh, full, smelly nappy lying in the middle of a beach, and when you point out to them that they left something behind and all you get is a shrug… To clean or not to clean that up?

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