British beaches are the final resting places for mountains of litter with more arriving on every wave and gust of wind

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 25 March 2014

British beaches are the final resting places for mountains of litter with more arriving on every wave and gust of wind Beach litter is increasing and behaviour needs to change.

2013 was a vintage year for finding strange things on beaches: “As well as half a TV, a French bullet-proof vest and a pack of bacon, there was a brass candlestick, some plastic bird feet, a birdcage, a bath plug, half a canoe and a set of dentures! Ø Top of the finds was once again plastic pieces. These are tiny bits of plastic that have broken off larger items or have been in the sea for possibly decades and become smaller and smaller

Lauren Eyles,
Beachwatch Officer
MCS

British beaches are the final resting places for mountains of litter with more arriving on every wave and gust of wind Beach litter is increasing and behaviour needs to change says MCS What do half a TV, a French bullet-proof vest and an unopened pack of bacon have in common? They were all cleared from our beaches during a single weekend last September and were among the 223,405 bits of litter that volunteers bagged up and removed as part of our Beachwatch Big Weekend 2013. The UK’s leading beach cleanup and survey has now been running for twenty years and over the two decades the amount of litter found on our beaches has been steadily increasing. The 20th anniversary clean up, which took place between 20th and 23rd September 2013, saw 2,309 items of litter found on every kilometre cleaned - the highest in Beachwatch history. During the last 20 years 59,493 volunteers have taken part in Beachwatch Big Weekend, removing 5,528,399 pieces of litter from 3,080.5km of coastline. “This is a disgusting tide of litter which is threatening the safety of beach visitors both human and animal. It’s coming in from the sea, being blown from the land or simply being dumped and dropped. After 20 years of campaigning it’s disheartening that in 2013 we are seeing worse litter levels than ever, Ø says Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch Officer. Our Beachwatch volunteers record where the litter they find comes from to help the charity campaign to stop it getting there in the first place. Regionally, beaches in the North West of England had almost double the amount of litter per kilometre than the national average at over 4,000 pieces, whilst the South West, which normally has high litter levels, had well below the national average at just over 1,750 pieces per kilometre. Litter on Welsh beaches increased by 60% between 2012 and 2013 with almost 4,500 bits of rubbish per kilometre whilst the number of people who turned out to clean up Scottish beaches doubled between 2012 and 2013 whilst the amount of litter the volunteers picked up dropped by 3% year on year. Here’s where the litter recorded last September came from: Public - 39.4% This is all the stuff littered by people - we drop it intentionally, leave it behind accidentally, or it arrives on the beach carried on the wind or in rivers. Fishing - 12.6% Includes commercial and recreational fishing stuff - line, nets, weights, floats. Shipping - 4.5% This is all the stuff that gets dropped, lost or thrown overboard from small craft to massive cargo ships. Sewage Related Debris (SRD) - 4.3% The really nasty stuff - bits we put down the loo but shouldn’t - cotton bud sticks, tampons, nappies and the like. Fly-tipped 0.9% People use some beaches like the local tip - fly-tipping things like furniture, pottery and ceramics. Medical - 0.2% Inhalers, plasters, syringes - stuff you really don’t want your kids picking up. Non-sourced - 38.1% All the bits and bobs that we can’t really identify and so don’t know where it comes from - generally small things or damaged stuff. Vintage year Beachwatch Officer Lauren Eyles, says “Top of the finds was once again plastic pieces. These are tiny bits of plastic that have broken off larger items or have been in the sea for possibly decades and become smaller and smaller. “Plastic is a real issue for our oceans and beaches, Ø says Lauren Eyles. “This year we also picked up lots of lids and caps. However, despite it being a really warm summer, we saw less crisp, sweets and lolly wrappers and fewer plastic bottles. There’s continued good news though for Sewage Related Debris (SRD) - there’s still less of it about after we asked people, in 2011, to stop flushing things down the loo that should go in the bin. Ø We believe that urgent steps must be taken to reverse the rising tide of beach litter. During June we will be launching our Marine Litter Action Network which will be tasked with changing behaviour in a variety of areas from the plastics industry to manufacturing, retail to shipping. Actions not chat “Marine Litter Action Network meetings and workshops will take place between June 2014 and June 2015. Experts from the areas that we believe can do more will be joining us to identify ways that everyone can help reduce marine litter. This is no talking shop - we will have a year to make a difference and will be presenting the Government with our plans which we will be asking them to implement as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which gives the Government certain objectives it has to meet, Ø says Lauren Eyles. Sign up now! We will be running beach cleans and surveys around the UK coast this Spring and Autumn, and we’re throwing down the challenge to the public to take part and make this the biggest year of beach cleans and surveys ever. The first big event will take place at hundreds of beaches between 24th and 30th April. You can find out more and register at www.mcsuk.org/foreverfish You can read more about the report here

Actions you can take

  1. Organise a beach clean
  2. Visit the beachwatch website
  3. Join a beach clean
  4. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017

Did you know?…

Every year, volunteers give us over 1,000 days of their time

UK seas and shores are a place for leisure, sport, and a holiday destination for millions annually

Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans

Why not join a beach clean ... or organise one?

To date, our beach clean volunteers have removed 6 million pieces of litter from our beaches and collected marine litter data to support our campaigns for cleaner seas and beaches.

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