Bath Spa Students’ Union Go, Give, Experience Project teamed up with University of Bath’s Volunteering team, the Student Community Partnership and Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity to carry out an urban beach clean in Bath. The event was organised to combat plastic pollution before it ends up in our oceans, with the hope that it will educate students and residents about how plastic waste impacts the lives of whales and dolphins.

Photo by Andrei Ciobanu on Unsplash
Polluted Beach. Photo by Andrei Ciobanu.

On Saturday 20th October 2018, a team of student volunteers, local councillors and members of Whale and Dolphin Conservation came together to clean the city of Bath. The Urban Beach Clean event was organised by the SU Bath Volunteering Department , SU Bath V Team and Whale and Dolphin Conservation who were concerned about the rising amounts of litter found in urban areas and how it finds its way to oceans.  This affects all forms of marine life, such as whales and dolphins, who mistake plastic for food. According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, up to 95 percent of plastic pollution starts as litter in towns and cities.

The Go, Give, Experience is a project run by students for students which aims to encourage students to reflect upon how they dispose of their litter. Many Bath students are seen through a negative lens by some permanent residents, so this event gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their concern for the local community as well as the environment.

Everyone together for the big celebration 2
Everyone together for the big celebration © Photography by Louise Thacker.

Statistics by Whale and Dolphin Conservation shows that 56 percent of all whale and dolphin species have been found to be consuming marine plastics. The hashtag #NotWhaleFood was started by Whale and Dolphin Conservation to spread the word about plastic pollution and encourage positive action to combat the problem.

Shockingly, a one litre plastic bottle could break down into enough fragments to fill one mile of every beach in the whole world. And that same plastic bottle could take 450 years to breakdown, meaning it lives twice as long as one of the longest living creatures on the planet – the bowhead whale.

This year, a pilot whale was found with eighty plastic bags in its stomach. This proves plastic is finding its way into the oceans and it starts in urban areas. Our choices make a difference. If we choose to keep buying single-use plastic, it is likely to end up in oceans all over the world, killing marine life and disrupting the ecosystem.

However, this doesn’t mean we should lose hope and accept what is happening. We can make positive changes. We have the power to make better choices that benefit us, animals and the planet. It’s in every small decision; from using reusable coffee cups to choosing tote bags over plastic bags, these changes do make a difference.

We know we must take direct action if we are to combat the large amounts of litter found in the city. We can’t wait for larger organisations to fix things, we must take responsibility for the plastic we use and ensure we use as little single-use plastic as possible.

Litter bags lined up to represent the length of a blue whale
Litter bags lined up to represent the length of a blue whale © Photography by Louise Thacker.

On the Bath Urban Beach Clean this weekend, volunteers collected over thirty bags of plastic waste, which could have ended up in the stomachs of whales and dolphins. Volunteers were shocked by the amount of litter found in just one area, suggesting that overcoming the problem of plastic pollution starts by engaging with it.

Those white sandy beaches we imagine travelling to might not look how they used too since there is an increasing amount of litter washing up onto our beaches. But, with determination, consideration, and perseverance, we can ensure the litter we use doesn’t end up in the stomachs of whales or dolphins and other marine life.

Through opportunities such as the Urban Beach Clean, or even just by making small daily changes, we can truly make a difference to both our local and global environment. It all starts with us making a choice.  

Words by Louise Thacker

Relevant links:

Whale & Dolphin Conservation

Bath Spa Go, Give, Experience Projects

The Student Community Partnership (SCP)

SU Bath V Team

**article updated 26.10.18

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