Hayley Matthews: The mess at Porty beach shows how little we care for planet

A volunteer helps clean up Portobello beach
A volunteer helps clean up Portobello beach
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Since the start of the year I’ve been giving something up each month for BBC Radio Scotland, in the bid to be a better human.

The challenge that’s had the biggest impact on me has been the giving up single-use plastic. I was amazed at just how much plastic we use on a daily basis. It’s everywhere we look, seemingly on every fruit and vegetable, in every shop, on every street corner and it scares me.

I’ve been trying to do my bit and find out where I can get things like loo roll that isn’t wrapped in plastic, cotton buds that aren’t made of plastic, alternatives to plastic wrapping, plastic sticky tape etc – the list is endless. I came across a company called Greencane which uses biodegradable cellophane and paper to wrap their toilet roll and can’t help wonder why big market-leading companies can’t just do the same? What a difference it would make to the planet if just one item like loo roll wasn’t clad in plastic. And it’s not just the household items that we excessively wrap in plastic, the daily juice bottles, crisp packets, fast-food cartons and disposable coffee cups fill the bins of the streets of Edinburgh and it’s a sad sight. It was particularly bad down Portobello beach last Sunday. Every single bin on the promenade was spilling over with a sea of plastic juice bottles, bags, cups and wrappers.

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But why? Are the bins not emptied regularly enough, is there not enough (or any) opportunity to recycle? Is it because we’re just too careless about our planet? Or are we doing too much of what we’re told by binning our litter, with the end product being the bins need emptying more?

As I sat on a bench watching my son cycle up and down, I had a proud parent moment. He stopped, got off his bike, picked up a drinks can and put it in one of the many overflowing bins – whilst declaring to the entire promenade “the fish will choke!” and shaking the can in the air.

After he’d balanced the can on top of a mountain of rubbish we cycled back home only to pass, yes you’ve guessed it, a bin lorry on the promenade. At last, a clean-up was in hand. However, as I watched the crew struggle with the badly designed and burnt out bins, the litter scattered everywhere. Yet again the promenade was littered. It didn’t look an easy job as the bin covers were flapping open and the litter from one of the bottomless bins was all over the place.

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The guys struggled but also seemed to just do the bare minimum. Surely this bad practice defeats the purpose of the bin lorry? All they needed was a brush and shovel to have a quick sweep up round the bin and all would be sorted. Also many of the bins clearly need replacing. I just can’t understand why we don’t have recycling facilities at various points on Portobello beach. Does it come down to lack of funding? After all, we’re constantly told to bin our litter and be respectful, yet if there’s nowhere to put it then people just won’t bother.

It amazes me how we all take so much pride in our homes yet the minute we’re out the front door, it’s someone else’s problem. I find myself picking up litter to put in the nearest bin, or to take home and recycle.

We should see the world as our home and treat it with a bit more pride and respect, or we’ll never get this horrendous plastic problem under control.