What makes up 8.5% of all litter found on our beaches?

By: Erin O'Neill
Date posted: 31 May 2018

The Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) 2017 Great British Beach Clean highlighted that 8.5% of litter found on the beach was related to what we flush away.

Considering that over 255,000 pieces of litter were collected in just one weekend as part of the MCS survey, more than 20,000 items came from being flushed down the toilet. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The majority of items incorrectly flushed away are caught by filters at the waste water treatment plants; the recorded items found on the beach survey are those which are either too small for the filters or are the result of a sewage overflow after heavy rain.

These numbers suggest that thousands of people are incorrectly flushing plastics down the toilet every day.

But what types of plastics are being flushed?

Many of these commonly flushed items, all of which are made of plastic or contain plastic fibres, are found by beach clean volunteers on our beaches:

• Cotton bud sticks

• Wet wipes

• Tampon applicators

• Sanitary towels

• Nappies

To celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8th we’re working with partners across the UK to raise awareness about this source of plastic pollution and asking everyone to take a stand against plastic pollution and #binit4beaches instead.

Join our Thunderclap to show your support and help reduce plastic pollution in our oceans today!


We will be at Jubilee Beach in Southend-on-Sea tomorrow June 8 2018, from 10:30 - 14:30 with Wallace, our wet wipe monster.

The event, which is hosted by Anglian Water for World Oceans Day, will see the unveiling of a new sculpture made of litter collected from beaches across the country and washing machine parts. Anglian Water’s ‘Keep it Clear’ vans and the equipment they use to find blockages will also be there.

The Rivercare and Beachcare groups will be looking for volunteers to help out with their local schemes, and the charity Turning Tides will be displaying a mural made of plastics and litter collected from Southend beach after a recent beach clean.

Come along and find out how you can help stop pollution from unflushables!

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017
  2. Join a beach clean

Did you know?…

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded 40% fewer bags on beaches

It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute

To date, our beach cleans have removed 6 million pieces of litter

MCS in partnership with Waitrose

We’re running hundreds of clean-up events during our famous Great British Beach Clean weekend from Friday 14 to Monday 17 September with loads more taking place throughout the year.

Anyone can volunteer, so get involved at an event near you!

Get involved now