Anglesey beachcleaning and our new GBBC coordinator

Lizzie Prior Jack Versiani Holt By: Lizzie Prior, Jack Versiani Holt
Date posted: 24 August 2017

This year the Great British Beach Clean (GBBC) is coordinated by our Beach and River Clean Project Officer, Lizzie Prior. Lizzie shares her beach-cleaning experience, provides her insight into the timing of GBBC and the importance of the litter data collected at Anglesey.

Liz Prior

My first beach clean was probably a little more unusual than most. For one I was in the Philippines but two, I was actually leading it! Trying to write a poster in a different language was a little challenging, but I would never forget the enthusiasm I received from the local community. They were shocked to hear that it’s an estimated, 75 years for a crisp wrapper, 500 years for a nappy and 450-1000 years for a plastic bottle to break down.

The inland litter can still make it to our coastline, by entering either a stream, river or canal. It all leads to the ocean and washing up on our beaches. Litter can be incredibly harmful to our marine wildlife, from entanglement to ingestion. Once plastic is in their stomach it will never break down and the animal starves as food cannot be consumed easily.

We wanted to do something about this issue. First, to remove the direct threat litter poses to marine wildlife by removing it from our beaches, but to also understand the extent of the issue and what types of litter we were finding. This was the birth of Beachwatch!

Handful of litter

It started in 1994, but with just a small team we knew we needed passionate members of the public to help record what litter items are being found around our coastline. Over that time volunteers from around the UK have gone to their local beach and surveyed every man-made item they found. The extensive data that has collected over the years has allowed us to safeguard our marine environment from litter. We campaigned for the 5p bag levy when our data showed more and more plastic bags being found on our beaches. Since this was introduced in Wales we have seen a 22% drop of plastic bags on our beaches and from 2015-2016 we saw a 40% drop in plastic bags across the UK!

This is fantastic news and just goes to show that with everyone making small changes in their day-to-day, can have a real positive influence on our marine environment. Beachwatch is all about a long term solution that we are striving for, to prevent litter from reaching the environment in the first place.

These beachwatch litter surveys take place throughout the year, but we also have a huge beach cleaning weekend every 3rd weekend of September. We call this the Great British Beach Clean.

This year it runs from Friday 15th - Monday 18th September and will see almost 400 beach cleans take place across the UK with valuable litter data being collected. We chose this weekend because it falls on an even bigger event, the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC). This was set up by the American Charity, Ocean Conservancy. Over this weekend over 100 countries take part in a beach clean and litter survey and submit their findings to Ocean Conservancy who analyse all the results and write a report on what was found. Our Great British Beach Clean is the UK’s entry into this global trash tally.

Sunset

In 2016, from GBBC we found that there was, on average, 649 items of litter found per 100m of beach surveyed across the entire UK. Wales was just below this at 607 litter items per 100m. We have Beachwatch organisers in Angelsey, one area in particular is collecting data that not only feeds into our National database, but also into in to a European one. This data is used for our Government to monitor litter levels throughout the UK. Under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, all EU states must monitor their littler levels and our Beachwatch programme helps provide the information the UK needs.

We have a few cleans that take place over the Great British Beach Clean weekend in Angelsey, but we would love more to really get a picture of litter levels in this area. It’s a great event to be a part of where you can head down to your local beach, meet like minded people whilst also contributing to a Nationwide data collection programme that has real benefits to protecting our marine environment. If you wish to become an organiser or take part in a event please check out our website

We hope to see you on the beach soon!