Having to clean beaches is shameful

Children take part in beach clear-up organised by Surfrider Europe

France’s Pavillon Bleu was the world’s first blue flag scheme for clean beaches. Here, Samantha David finds out what coastal authorities have to do to be awarded the prestigious mark

We all have our own idea of the perfect beach, but whether it is a wilderness of dunes and open sea, or a cool strip of wet sand covered in donkey’s hoof-prints, clean is a priority.

Too many of us of a certain age remember coming home with feet covered in crude oil, and even today tales abound of polluted water carrying viruses. Worse, it is predicted that with 8million tonnes of rubbish entering the world’s oceans per year, by 2050 the seas will contain more plastic than fish. 

The good news is groups and associations are taking steps to keep France’s beaches clean.

The Pavillon Bleu (www.pavillonbleu.org) scheme, set up in 1985, was the world’s first eco-label, and Thomas Joly, the director, says that the association is proud of their record.

“The French love their medals and plaques, and in the beginning we simply wanted to encourage elected officials to work harder at preserving the environment by rewarding those communes who were doing better than average.”

Today the scheme is set up in 74 countries, and is a mark of excellence when it comes to messing about on the water.

Any commune which has a pleasure port or a beach is eligible (and a fee is payable), but these days the criteria are strict.

“There is a list of around 80 requirements, and a Pavillon Bleu beach has to meet them all to gain the flag.

“The water has to be regularly tested, the beach has to be cleaned daily, there have to be public lavatories, information boards, showers, separate bins for various categories of rubbish, properly managed parking, safety and first aid facilities, life guards, and all sorts of other measures.

“We also require access for those with reduced mobility. We prefer to say that rather than disabled access, because anyone can have reduced ...

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