Hefty fines and heavy hours of community service needed to be imposed on litterbugs, according to volunteers of a cleanup event, who have picked up over 60kg of onshore and offshore waste from a Dubai beach.
Currently, there is a Dh1,000 fine in place for those who litter anywhere on a Dubai beach.
More than 100 residents, comprising parents and schoolchildren, took part in a cleanup drive on Saturday at the Sunset Beach in Umm Suqeim.
The beach cleanup campaign was organised by action sport brand XDubai to commemorate the World Cleanup Day, which falls on September 15.
The volunteers were shocked to find hundreds of cigarette butts, chicken bones, plastic wrappers and bottles, as well as other shocking items such as dirty ear buds and toothbrushes.
Maci Fitzmaurice, a 16-year-old student at the Dubai English Speaking College, told Khaleej Times: “When I came to the beach early in the morning, I thought ‘oh, it’s pretty clean, so, this will be easy’, but when I started walking I noticed cigarette butts everywhere and I realised how dirty the beach really was. I think community service, more fines and greater awareness on the issue can help combat this problem. Events like these can really raise awareness and helps us to see how much damage we are really doing to the ocean. We also have to start showing how it can really affect marine life – for example, fish can get trapped in the plastic or swallow it and die.”
A nine-year-old student at The Kindergarten Starters, Daniel Pavey, also supports the idea of a heavier fine on litterbugs.
Pavey was at the beach with his mother, both who took part in the cleanup and were shocked to find the large amounts of rubbish, especially cigarette butts.
“People smoke so much and they throw the trash on the beach, can’t they throw it in the bin? The marine life can get suffocated. I saw a picture of a turtle with a bottle cap ring stuck in its shell and the turtle couldn’t move. I felt so sad. It’s important not to litter,” Pavey said.
Schae James Meredith, a 16-year-old student at the Dubai American Academy, said that he found lots of “strange items” during the cleanup.
“We started to sweep the beach and we found a lot of cigarette butts and we found it very shocking. There’s massive piles of it and we’re trying to make a change on the beach with this cleanup. I know there is a fine for littering on the beach, but we found a lot of cigarette butts, chicken bones, ear buds, toothbrush and plastic bottles.”
Joseph Clifford, a 17-year-old student at the Greenfield Community School, believes that people will start littering again within a week unless more is done to change their attitudes against littering.
He feels that community service, heavier fines and education can be the solution to the problem.
“Cigarette butts can cause choking hazards, pollution, kill off coral reefs and make the beach a dangerous place not only to marine life but also human life. We’re trying to help in the cleaning efforts,” Clifford said.
No cigarette butts please
“Smokers, please stop littering our precious beaches with cigarette butts” – this is one of the main messages the campaign, which saw the participation of marine conservation organisation Azraq, Dubai 360, Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling, and Dulsco, XDubai Dubai Film to make the event a success.
“This is an awareness message to everyone, especially those who smoke. But, mainly, littering out on the beach affects the oceans big time. We hope that people will learn that this does have a big impact on our planet,”Rawia Jeitani, head of marketing at XDubai, told Khaleej Times.
Natalie Banks, the managing director of Azraq, said: “We’re here because it’s World Cleanup Day, there are cleanups happening all over the world. We’re choosing to clear up what we can while we are here. After everyone has collected their garbage, we will sort each item out, mainly cigarette butts as we’ve seen already.”