Passion for plastic is leaving a legacy of litter on Britain's beaches

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 14 May 2013

Passion for plastic is leaving a legacy of litter on Britain’s beaches Plastic vies for space in the sand alongside sweet wrappers, cigarette stubs and drinks bottles as our beaches reveal anti-litter campaigns are now falling on deaf ears.

Passion for plastic is leaving a legacy of litter on Britain’s beaches Plastic vies for space in the sand alongside sweet wrappers, cigarette stubs and drinks bottles as our beaches reveal anti-litter campaigns are now falling on deaf ears. Plastic bits and pieces made up almost 65% of all the litter found on British beaches during a single weekend last September according to our annual Beachwatch Big Weekend Report published today. The amount of plastic on our beaches in 2012 rose by 3% compared to the year before. Even more concerning is the 100% rise in the number of cigarette stubs found on beaches between 2011 and 2012 with general smoking litter, including lighters and packets, increasing by 90%. The latest figures also reveal a rise in the number of sweet and lolly wrappers on UK beaches where volunteer cleaners also found over 75 plastic drinks bottles for every kilometre they surveyed. MCS says the amount of rubbish like sweet wrappers and plastic bottles seems to indicate that decades of various anti-litter campaigns now need to be re-invigorated for a new generation. Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch Officer, says the continued rise in beach litter is worrying, but the fact that much of it is plastic and unlikely to break down is even more concerning: “As we continue to embrace the concept of a throwaway society it’s no surprise that plastic dominates the litter we find. Over the last few years we have seen a drop in the number of cigarette butts we’ve found on our beaches but this year that trend has totally reversed. That could be a result of more people smoking outside following the ban on smoking in public places. It’s likely that more people are dropping butts outside rather than disposing of them in ashtrays.” Read more and download the full report.

Actions you can take


Did you know?…

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

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles

Stop the plastic tide

Support our appeal to turn the tide on plastics.

Find out more