What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you imagine a beach? A sense of calm? Clean waters? The fact is that for most people, beaches are the go-to places to take a break. The general public visits beach resorts or public beaches only to destress. Imagine if these beaches are dirty, littered and unclean! Would the public still visit them? The answer is a resounding NO.
The concept of beach cleaning is important but seldom talked about. It goes beyond a recreational point of view. Beaches play an important role in daily life, especially for countries like the U.A.E where tourism is thriving. Not only this, beaches contribute a great deal to real estate, too, with beach-front properties selling at exorbitant prices.
Beaches play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. They act as bridges between the land and ocean. Many marine animals also depend upon the beach ecosystem. Most of these organisms can’t be seen by the naked eye because they are minute in size or hidden deep in the sand, but they play an important role in seawater filtration and nutrient recycling. If the beaches are polluted, all these organisms are impacted. Beaches also play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change. They act as a buffer and protect the coastline from damaging high winds and waves of powerful storms. All this, of course, depends on how ‘clean’ our beaches are.
Clean Middle East speaks to Alberto Negri,General Manager, Fiorentini Middle East; Aynul Hassan, Human Resources Manager, The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah; and Renjith Chandran, Cluster Hotel General Manager, Danat Hotels and Resorts; regarding different aspects of beach cleaning.
Alarming beach pollution facts
One would wonder why the need for beach pollution has suddenly spiked up. Here are a few facts to startle you:
• Annually, 7 billion tons of debris are deposited on beaches. These are a health hazard for us who use the beach recreationally and for the marine biodiversity that depends on it.
• Plastic forms a major portion of the debris found in our beaches. According to Ocean Conservancy’s TIDES Database, almost 60% of beach litter worldwide is plastic. And given the nature of plastic, it’s not going to decompose anytime soon.
• Other types of beach pollution include algae, sewage, litter, garbage and oils.
• A polluted beach affects the economy. A beach in poor condition, in addition to everything else, precludes or limits its recreational, lucrative and aesthetic use.
• A polluted or littered beach does not appeal to tourists. The “bad” experience lingers in their memory for a long time.
• 80% of marine pollution comes from land based activities.
It is because of the scale beach pollution has attained that several international agencies are stepping forward and asking people to join their movements to conserve, protect and clean the beaches, especially in those zones where tourism and resorts are increasing.
“We have almost 800 meters of beach front in our hotel and we remove about 100+ kg of garbage everyday. So beaches are getting polluted and this pollution is affecting marine life. It is a concern which we, as an organization, are trying to reduce the damage of.”- Renjith Chandran, Cluster Hotel General Manager, Danat Hotels and Resorts
Government requirements for maintaining beaches
The UAE in general has very clear guidelines on the maintenance of marine life and beach maintenance. Firstly, sustainability is a national priority and rightly so. There is a separate environmental protection agency which takes care of the natural resources of the country, including beaches, the mangroves, the water pollution and marine life.
The agency follows a zero tolerance approach when it comes to the preservation of these resources. Government agencies also provide time to time guidance and support to beach front property owners in order to conserve their natural resources. They also check the quality of the water from time to time in order to determine if it is fit for use or not. This level of efficiency is beneficial for beach, reef, coral and sea life protection.
Beach cleaning awareness has to start from the ground level, which comprises champions like housekeepers, recreation team members, etc. It is very important for them to understand the impact of their job. So what we do here in terms of awareness is that we schedule separate schedule classes for them. Apart from that we have areas like cafeterias, recreation rooms, employee entrances which are high traffic areas. These areas are equipped with posters which constantly remind our staff to maintain proper levels of hygiene.
In addition to this, we encourage our staff to voluntarily do beach cleaning twice a month. Recently, on the World Environment Day, we did a big beach clean up activity. We encouraged our guests to participate in it. Small activities like these make a big difference at the end of the day, says Aynul Hassan, Human Resources Manager, The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah.
It is also important to maintain a beach cleaning schedule. One can divide the beach into different zones for a clean up or designate two to three days for beach cleaning. There is no thumb rule for how the schedule should be made as it will vary according to the type and size of the beach.
Challenges in beach cleaning
Beach maintenance, like everything else, comes with a lot of challenges. Here’s listing a few:
• All sorts of trash is deposited on the beach by polluted waters. So one has to be very quick and adaptive towards beach cleaning.
• Beaches attract a lot of people. That means there is going to be a lot of littering and garbage.
• Choosing the right equipment for deep cleaning the beaches.
• Maintaining the beach is an expensive affair for most hotels.
• There are different types of waste littering beaches on a routine basis. These include glass bottles, plastic, beer cans, cigarette butts. A majority of this waste comes from the water. A beach owner cannot control what the waters bring and when they bring it. This becomes a challenge as the cleaning staff has to be on their toes to clean the beach, especially when it is a commercial one.
• The beaches are not free from chemical pollution.
Beach cleaning: Manual vs Professional
Beach clean ups are great - they bring communities together and are ideal for raising awareness. But are they enough? Through manual clean ups, only a small proportion of the trash can be removed from the beaches. What’s more, during an organized beach clean up, people tend to miss out on small plastics, cigarette butts, etc.
At a time when researchers have estimated high levels of marine and beach pollution, a manual clean up clearly does not suffice. What is needed is a beach cleaning machine which is economical, performs multiple tasks and is designed intelligently.
A beach cleaning machine should be purchased considering the size of the beach, the budget and the nature of the beach. It is ideal to choose one which performs various tasks of a detailed beach clean up so that you don’t have to invest in different equipment for every little task. So choose a multi-tasking machine that has the potential to cater to wet and dry sand.
Look for the add ons
Does your beach cleaning machine have pitchforks for pallet lifting? Does it have a bucket for moving sand? Does it have front and back rakes for collecting seaweeds? Or a compact shovel to level the sand? These are questions you need to ask the manufacturer before opting for a beach cleaning machine. In addition to this, your equipment must have a sanitiser and hydro cleaner to achieve optimum cleaning and sanitization, considering the dynamics of the modern world, an arm excavator for all the small excavations and a harrow ripper to soften sand.
Look for intelligence in design
Your beach cleaning machine should take even the minute requirements of beach cleaning into consideration. For instance, it is ideal if it operates by truck rather than wheels so that it does not get stuck in the sand. Other than that, you could look for a vibration system that enables a user to change the capacity of the filter from small to medium to large. Intelligence in design ensures that you won’t have to keep investing in different beach cleaning equipment over and over again.
Talking about intelligence, it is needless to say that your equipment should be able to remove even the tiniest pollutants from the sand - cigarette butts, shells, stones of any size, etc and should be able to work in dry and wet sand. Overall, it is crucial for the stakeholders of beaches - including the municipalities and beach front hotels and resorts to ensure that their beaches are kept clean for visitors but also for the environment.