It’s a Sunday evening in early July as I write this, which is an appropriate moment to tackle that great Maltese seasonal institution – a large, loud gathering of family and friends out for a beach BBQ.
Tomorrow morning, many a Maltese beach will bear the signs of this weekend’s nighttime invasion – litter, spent charcoal, chicken wings and detritus of all kinds will be left behind. While some litter, there are others who spend hours doing voluntary beach tidy-ups. It’s a never ending cycle of litter, tidy, litter… but perhaps we’ve reached the tipping point, or nearly.
The Beach BBQ’s Environmental Impact
Of course, it’s not solely the beach BBQ that contributes to beach littering, but here’s an anecdote on its polluting effect which isn’t all about litter.
A couple of hot July’s ago, I went out for an expensive, splash-out meal at a restaurant right next to a small bay. The establishment suggests guests arrive to catch the sunset views from the al fresco dining area. We did. And that was about the best bit of the evening, and the meal. I won’t do a hatchet job on the meal (which it deserved), but the evocative sundown drink was spoiled within around five minutes of our arrival by the chugging into action of a generator and the waft of petrol, followed by floodlights, shouting and general mayhem. The beach BBQ was in full swing.
Now, I like the idea of a beach BBQ, and went on a couple in the past. But we were responsible enough to keep noise to a minimum. The people I was with enjoyed chilling out in the mellow heat and listening to the waves, not music or generators and scoured their patch of beach meticulously using torches to ensure not a scrap of litter was left. If all nighttime BBQ-goers did this, then there’d be no need to…
Ban the Beach BBQ
Mellieha Local Council used by-laws to ban the BBQ last summer from Ghadira Bay, to some uproar. Some quarters saw it as another attack on popular ‘cultural’ pastimes. Not that the beach BBQ can be compared with the Ghanafest.
Ghadira Bay has a nature reserve behind it and is aiming for Blue Flag status as a beach with outstanding environmental and safety credentials. While the Blue Flag criteria don’t stipulate a ban on BBQs, Blue Flag status and barbecuing don’t sit happily together; the pollution the beach BBQ produces in Malta would make attaining and retaining Blue Flag status nearly impossible.
Two beaches in Malta now have the Blue Flag – Bugibba (this year) and St George’s Bay (awarded last year). Interestingly, both are ‘new’, man-made beaches and in built-up areas popular with tourists. They have no local tradition of BBQs.
Yet, the more rural, beauty spot beaches, which should have greater potential to reach Blue Flag standards aren’t yet quality enough; the BBQ culture must have something to do with that.
Conspicously, today, I noticed a row of temporary info boards on Golden Bay beach explaining Blue Flag and the local sealife and fauna and flora. The Malta Tourism Authority’s info boards nearby, also a new addition this year, clearly said BBQs were not allowed, neither was camping.
So, plans are afoot to make more of Malta’s beaches BBQ free in pursuit of that elusive Blue Flag status no doubt. I love the idea of footloose and fancy-free summer nights on the beach with a Barbie as much as the next man. But given our islands’ limited beach space, masses of beach goers and our enduring lack of self-discipline, the BBQ must stay at home. About time.