Friday 24 January 2020

'Reckless' - Fires still going, nappies, hot barbecues, uncooked food... the carnage beachgoers left behind this weekend

One group of people simply walked away and left everything - two used barbecues, uncooked meat, cans and packaging - behind on Laytown beach last weekend. Photo: Lisa McCabe
A panoramic shot of the rubbish left on Brittas Bay this weekend. Photo: Brittas Bay Beach Care
A skip brimming with rubbish in Brittas Bay. Photo: Brittas Bay Beach Care
Rubbish left on Laytown strand this weekend. Photo: Lisa McCabe
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

“It’s at times heartbreaking.”

Sinead Keane lives near Brittas Bay in Co Wicklow, and last night she and 16 other volunteers walked the length of the beach to pick up 12 refuse sacks worth of rubbish left behind by reckless visitors from earlier that day.

“We found nappies, baby wipes, loads of plastic bottles, bottles of beer which is very frequent, little tiny plastics like the corner off a packet. Those little pieces are the ones that immediately arrive in the sea and are really dangerous. They're the pieces that people think is OK to leave behind, if they’ve brought the main part of the packet home with them.”

“We picked up loads of straws. We get barbecues as well.”

Brittas Bay is a four-and-a-half kilometre stretch of sand, with around 50 sand dunes behind it. The rubbish was strewn not only over the beach, but all across the peaks and troughs of the dune valleys as well. Cleaning one area in a dune can take as much as 50 minutes, Brittas Bay Beach Care says. Such is the level of littering.

“Yesterday our beach cleaner put out three large fires in our dunes.”

“There were campers in the dunes, and one fire in particular had to be addressed straight away. It had gotten really out of control. The man who found the fire said it was beyond reckless."

“Our dune systems run extremely high if a fire like that happens in the depression of a dune it can get really out of control before we’re even aware of it.”

“Brittas doesn’t have mains supply water, so a situation like that can’t happen.”

Ms Keane added: "People had left a huge mess behind, and one man spent about 50 minutes in that area picking up after them.”

Last February, researchers at NUI Galway found that 73pc of deep-sea fish in the north-west Atlantic had ingested plastic. For now, Brittas Bay Beach Care, are knee-deeep in beach cleans, but eventually the group will do what it can to help promote healthy attitudes to our beaches and waters.

“We’re in a very reactive position right now, we’re happy to go out and do cleans, but at the same time this has to stop.”

“People need to realise that this does affect you. We’d really love to mobilise the public. Walking by the rubbish doesn’t help you, we’re going to see it in our food.”

“This is so out of control.”

One woman on Brittas Bay reported this weekend how her daughter was burned when she unwittingly stepped on a concealed hot barbecue, which had been dangerously buried in the sand.

“Very unfortunately I’ve no doubt they meant no malice, and yet you can see how it beggars belief. We need to really educate people. It can be frustrating to see how silly people can be.”

“We want everyone to have a good time there. We don’t want someone coming down to the beach and coming back with a burn.”

Meanwhile, on Saturday evening on Laytown strand in Co Meath, Lisa McCabe encountered another vast stretch of rubbish. One group had even left uncooked food and their picnic blanket behind.

“I saw what looked like a picnic blanket on the beach and someone had left a plastic sheeting, barbecues, uncooked food, nappies, crisp wrappers, plastic cutlery. And as I looked around, it was all up the beach... glass bottles and cans everywhere.”

Ms McCabe and another woman decided to start picking up the rubbish. Within an hour, they had filled eight refuse sacks.

“It was really upsetting. Nappies and beer bottles and cans. These people aren’t sending a good message to their kids. I know it’s a minority of people that does this but it has a massive impact.”

“It’s really awful and shocking that people feel that they can leave that rubbish behind. You wouldn’t do it in your own home. I don’t know what they think happens to the rubbish when they leave it behind.”

Ms McCabe added: “It’s rampant everywhere and people need to wake up because in 50 years this is going to be a massive problem and we’re all going to have to live with the consequences.”

The Laytown/ Bettystown Beach Committee has organised a beach clean-up this Saturday from 10am-12pm. To get involved, you can email

To learn more about Clean Coasts groups in your area, see

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