Step out and take strides for Yorkshire’s wildlife: one piece of litter at a time

Marine Pollution Officer, Ana Cowie, challenges us to pick up litter in our local patch wherever that may be, to prevent it reaching our already suffering seas. Whether you’re walking round the block or heading to the coast, picking up litter as you wander can make a step change for public behaviour and Yorkshire’s wildlife.

Most of us have come to learn about, and know, our local wild patches well during this last year. Whilst it’s great that more people are exploring nearby green spaces and discovering the benefits of connecting with nature, not everyone knows or cares about respecting these homes for wildlife. Over the last year, we have seen a huge surge in littering at both our coastal and inland nature reserves. Sometimes the issue of litter seems too big to tackle – it’s easy to think that our actions would be just a drop in the ocean, so what’s the point? But that’s far from the truth! We can all make simple changes to reduce the amount of materials, like plastic, we are using (and that are being created in the first place), as well as taking responsibility for the litter we produce and its correct disposal.

Your litter picking challenge!

When you are next out on a walk, I challenge you to start picking up just 3 items of litter. It won’t take long and it’s not much extra effort, but it really starts to open your eyes to the amount of litter that is blown or dropped all around the UK. If we all start making these small changes in our daily routines, the cumulative impact is huge! What might also happen is that others will see you picking up that litter and start to think about their own behaviours. Education is one of the most powerful tools to try and stop our land and sea from choking.

An item of litter I would like to highlight as it’s regularly overlooked, is the cigarette butt. People often think they will break down quickly and just flick them away rather than waiting and putting them in the bin. But what people don’t often know is that their filters are made of plastic and so a single butt can take up to 15 years to break down. During this whole time, it will release microplastics into the environment. Chemicals released from a single butt are toxic enough to kill 50% of the total fish exposed to it1.

Where litter washes up

Even if you live far inland, your actions can be adding to marine pollution. Litter, like cigarette butts, can be dropped or blown into waterways or drains which will eventually lead to the sea, injuring or killing our incredible marine wildlife that we have off the Yorkshire coast like seals, dolphins and even whales. We can all do our bit in giving our seas a chance to recover and thrive once again. To find out more about what Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are doing to save our seas, as well as what you can do, go to: www.ywt.org.uk/give-seas-a-chance.

Join us for a beach clean

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust also run regular beach cleans along the Yorkshire coast, so if you are visiting, come and help us pick up litter! You don’t need any previous experience but booking is essential. More information can be found here: www.ywt.org.uk/our-events/beach-cleans

Please bring your own gloves (we'll provide the litter pickers and bin bags!). Children are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.

But it is important to remember that you don’t need to travel hours to a beach or any site to do your bit to help save Yorkshire’s wildlife. Grab your friends and family and pick up litter on your doorstep or whilst you are walking and exploring any part of Yorkshire!

1Cigarette Butts are Toxic Plastic Pollution - 2021 - RePlasts