Oh how we like to be beside the seaside; don’t we? The plastic problem facing our coastal town (Wales)

YRE Competition 2020
Litter Less Campaign Article
11-15 years old

It’s a beautiful Spring day in the Welsh seaside town of Porthcawl. The sun is shining, the smell of freshly cooked fish and chips hangs on the breeze and the beach is full…of plastic. Unfortunately, that is the sight that the thousands of tourists who visit Porthcawl each year are facing. Nobody wants to eat their ice-cream surrounded by plastic waste. Will they still come to Porthcawl and spend their hard earned money if this stays the same or gets even worse? How would that affect the businesses and residents of the town? 

One local resident said:

“I think the plastic on the beaches looks terrible, no-one wants to see that when they come for a day to the seaside.”

It’s not just the impact that plastic can have on the tourist trade that is worrying. It is estimated that around the world, more than one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die every year from eating or getting caught up in plastic waste.

A photo of some of the plastic collected from beaches like Porthcawl.

A photo of some of the plastic collected from beaches like Porthcawl.

Why is this happening?

80% of this waste comes from the land. How does it up in the sea? Well, for every 7 billion tons of plastic waste, only 9% is recycled, 12% is incinerated and 79% ends up in landfills or environmental areas like the ocean. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report into plastic waste (2016), if this doesn’t stop, then by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish! 

What do people of Porthcawl think?

We surveyed the residents and visitors of Porthcawl, to find out if they were aware of the plastic problem and why they thought it wasn’t getting better. 

Survey results

These results it shows that people know about the problem. So why is there no change? Is it that people really don’t care as our survey suggests?

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What can we do?

Education, education, education!

At west park primary in Porthcawl, children have been learning about the impact of plastic waste on the environment. They have shared their learning with the people of porthcawl, trying to get the message across by protesting through the town.


 The school’s eco -council has made over 30 eco bricks to send to Africa so they can build boats, houses etc. West park, along with other Porthcawl schools, has taken part in the ‘Porthcawl, love it, don’t trash it’ campaign learning about the negative impact of litter by carrying out clean ups on nearby streets and beaches. They have been designing posters, which have been displayed around the town, encouraging residents and visitors to bin their waste.

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A plastic free town?

According to Wales Online, Porthcawl is set to become the first plastic free town in Bridgend. Town councilor Alex Harris, who formed the group Plastic Free Porthcawl said, “It’s something I’m passionate about. I want to try and reduce the plastic used in the town… with a view to getting the town accredited as plastic-free.”

More than a dozen business in Porthcawl have now started to realise this is a problem and have taken plastic bags, straws, cutlery off the menu. One of the biggest fish and chips restaurant, Finnegan's in Porthcawl have now started to use paper bags instead of plastic. 

Shopping in a new way?

A recent addition to Porthcawl is the Pantri Box, a zero waste, plastic free shop started by local resident Gemma Lewis. She realised when buying things for her children that she was throwing away a lot of plastic. She looked into all the dangers of this and that’s when the idea came to her to that she should open her non-profit shop. A regular customer to the Pantri Box said “Gemma’s is an alternative shop in Porthcawl and it is for people who care about plastic litter, someone like me.”

West Park’s Young Reporters for the Environment with Gemma Lewis at the Pantri Box.

West Park’s Young Reporters for the Environment with Gemma Lewis at the Pantri Box.

Why don’t all shops work this way? We asked the residents and visitors of Porthcawl what would stop them using a shop like the Pantri Box. The majority of people said that the cost and the extra time it would take to go to different shops to get all their shopping could stop them.  

One person stated:

“Manufacturers, aren’t changing, they could make laws about using plastic, it may be too difficult though”.