Limited access keeps Fomm ir-Rih clean

Fomm ir-Rih: the only beach where most litter comes from the sea

A study on plastics now confirms that the pristine beach has been spared from the onslaught of public litter
A study on plastics now confirms that the pristine beach has been spared from the onslaught of public litter

Fomm ir-Riħ, the secluded beach in Mgarr, was the only beach of four surveyed in which litter items mostly originated from fishing activity or shipping rather than from the public.

The pristine beach remains off the beaten track and still lacks tourism and catering facilities.

But a tourism development consisting of 16 suites, proposed instead of a rural hamlet on the road leading to the beach, has lately generated controversy, with environmentalists fearing that this would represent the beginning of the commercialisation of the area.

A study on plastics now confirms that the pristine beach has been spared from the onslaught of public litter.

The study by the Environment and Resources Authority reveals that the amount of litter was observed to increase during the summer months in all beaches, probably due to the presence of more bathers, except Fomm ir-Riħ.

The pattern here is reversed, because the beach does not get many visitors due to limited accessibility. Winter months are characterised by stronger wave action, explaining the increased movement of litter onto the coastline at Fomm ir-Riħ during the winter season.

Surveys on the actual number of litter items on four Maltese beaches were carried out between 2017 and 2019.

The density of occurrence of litter items was calculated in “the number of litter items per 100m on the coastline”.

During the two-year period, a total of 5,519 plastic litter items were found on each 100 metres of coastline in all four beaches investigated in seven surveys.

The selected beaches were two remote beaches namely Għar Qawqla (Zebbug Gozo) and Fomm ir-Riħ, and two recreational beaches namely Għadira and Għajn Tuffieħa. The data on the amount of litter on Maltese coastlines was compiled through the EU funded project EMFF.

An additional 379 wooden items, 208 items of paper and cardboard, 161 metal items, 70 glass items, 58 items of textile and nine items of rubber were also found on each 100 metres of coastline. According to the study, ‘artificial polymer materials’ (plastics) account for 86% of the waste found on beaches followed by wood (6%).

The highest quantity of litter was observed in the form of cigarette butts (a form of plastic), most notably on the recreational beaches. Other common plastic litter includes straws, plastic pieces, plastic caps, lolly sticks, food containers, cups and lids and bottles.

Most of the litter on the Maltese coastline originates from the intense use of the beaches on the islands, rather than from litter washed ashore or deposited on the coastline.

69% of all rubbish on Maltese beaches is attributed to public litter while 15% originates from shipping and 11% from fishing activities.

The study also surveyed the amount of litter floating in coastal waters in the proximity of beaches. The number of plastic items found through the whole monitoring period amounted to 37,000 items in every square kilometre. Litter on the surface layer of the water column of coastal waters was predominantly plastic (82%), followed by wood (14%), cloth/textiles (2%) and rubber (2%). The major litter sources, in this case, were public litter (72%), shipping (16%) and fishing (12%).

The study also investigated the amount of litter on the seabed of shallow waters. Artificial polymer materials had the highest litter density (38%) followed by paper/cardboard (31%), metal (23%) and then cloth/textile (8%). The number of plastic items found on the seabed through the entire monitoring period was calculated at 31,250 per square kilometre.