Reducing Plastic Waste: Life’s a beach…clean!

by | Aug 24, 2021 | Blog, MakeAPledge, Nature and climate, Society

Hey again my fellow eco-enthusiasts – how’s it going?

Has anyone tried to be more sustainable on vacation? Let me know how you found it – and if you have any advice to share, I would love to hear it 😊 

Some exciting news here in Aarhus, we have just been on our very first beach clean!!! It was great to finally meet some of the people from the Facebook group and do something proactive together. We went to Moesgaard beach, as this is a bit further out of the city and therefore is less maintained than the inner-city beaches which are cleaned very regularly.  There ended up only being a small group of us, which is most likely due to the weather – as you can see in the pictures below, the sky turns from blue to black incredibly quickly here, and Aarhus is famous for it’s unpredictable forecast. We were actually very lucky and didn’t get rained on though, which was a big plus!

We took some very ‘high-tech’  😉 equipment with us in the forms of reusable bags for collecting the trash, but that was all we really needed, especially as most of the trash we found had been washed up by the sea and was relatively clean.

In the future I might also take some gardening gloves because we did find some stray underwear…. I’m really hoping it had been washed by the sea!

This brings me onto our beach-finds, from one butt to another. The most popular item we found by FAR was cigarette butts, of which we found about 55!! Cigarette butts and most hand-rolling cigarette filters are made of plastic and will take hundreds of years to biodegrade. On top of this, they are small and can easily be mistaken for food by wildlife. It can be especially easy to lose a cigarette butt in the sand, so if you are likely to be smoking at the beach (or in any place without access to an ashtray) I would really recommend investing in a mini portable-ashtray to collect your butts! 

At the moment, many municipalities actually do not accept cigarette butts for recycling – which is really sad, as I think this would take a lot of plastic out of our oceans. However, there are some companies such as FiltraCycle, TerraCycle and MéGO! (who the European Union is actually working with in the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Programme) who aim to collect used cigarette butts and recycle them into plastic blocks, which can then be reused. Hopefully this kind of cigarette collection will become more mainstream in the future and every butt we keep out of the ocean can be recycled into a new product!

The second most popular type of trash we found on the beach was clothing – including underwear, socks, flipflops and even a pair of tights?! Now some clothing items made of natural fibres such as cotton or wool will eventually biodegrade… however man-made fibres such as nylon or polyester will just end up becoming microfibres (or ‘microplastic’). That being said, any cloth waste is bad waste – as many fibres can actually be recycled, even if the item of clothing is too ruined to wear!! This is part of the European Clothing Action Plan, which aims to reduce the amount of virgin materials used in clothing.

Now I’m going to some people the benefit of the doubt in this situation and assume that these clothing items were not deliberately left on the beach, and just accidentally lost….but they can still cause harm to the environment! So please do take extra care with your clothes, and if they are becoming old and worn-out check for fabric recycling near you and keep your clothes in the production cycle.  If you are interested in learning more about reducing clothing waste in general, make sure to check out Joanna’s fabulous videos and follow her pledge on cutting down on fast fashion!

After we had finished with out collection we sorted into recyclable and non-recyclable piles. This ended up as a really interesting discussion, as one girl had only recently moved to Denmark, and was  a bit surprised at both the lack of recycling options and the lack of clear instructions as to what types of plastic actually can be recycled here – and to be honest, I also struggle. There is a website called Recycle in Denmark’ however, it’s really quite vague and doesn’t specify, for example which ‘PET’ types can be accepted for recycling! Denmark was supposed to roll out a new recycling scheme on 1st July, however this appears to be delayed. I hope that when it is eventually rolled out, the municipalities will provide very precise instructions into what can go where. We discussed that one of the biggest reasons people do not recycle is because it is too confusing and can take a lot of effort to work out what should go where. If there were very clear instructions, we thought it would make most people more willing to recycle!

Here is our final ‘haul’.

This was collected in around an hour and a half along one stretch of Moesgaard beach, near Aarhus. Among the other things mentioned above, on the beach we found: lighters, cardboard boxes, plastic water bottles, glass alcohol bottles, drink cans, food wrappers, and children’s beach toys (broken).  The beach itself was surprisingly clean compared to some I’ve seen, but we still managed to find a lot of trash (much of it plastic) tangled in the seaweed and strewn across the sand. This lead to an interesting conversation regarding the treatment of waste and recycling globally. It was really great to finally meet up with some other environmentally conscious people, and as we were an international group it was nice learn about how other countries recycle. It was also super nice to see that the Plastic Free community here in Aarhus is proactive, and I’m looking forward to planning even more clean up events. I have actually booked a Green Kayak for 7th September – but at the moment there is only one kayak available for rent at a time here in Aarhus. It’s a bit of a shame as I think it could be very nice to go out as a larger group, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that more Kayaks will come to Aarhus soon.

Finally, onto some plastic-free tips…

This month, I’ve decided to compile a list of online retailers/brands that focus on being plastic free. I realise that in my last few blogs I have ended us listing a lot of products, but not where to get them from (unless you live in Aarhus!).

Most of these websites should ship EU-wide, but may have a fee for doing so.

I hope that combined, these websites can cater for all your plastic-free needs, and hopefully deliver to your country! If I’m missing out on a major retailer, please let me know and I’ll include it in my next blog 😊

So that’s all for this update, thanks for checking in on my journey. I would love to hear about any community activism you’ve also been getting up to, so please feel free to share your stories or experiences in the comments section!



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