In the Year of the Sea, be part of the biggest ever Wales-wide beach litter pick!

Date posted: 17 July 2018

Marine Conservation Society seeks hundreds of volunteers for its 25th annual clean-up

The UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), is looking for hundreds of volunteers to clean up Welsh beaches as part of its 25th anniversary Great British Beach Clean event (14th-17th September).

Being by the sea makes us feel better, and the Great British Beach Clean isn’t just a good day out for people who love, or live near, the coast – it’s great for wildlife and the beach, too.

The Great British Beach Clean, now in its 25th year, not only spruces up hundreds of beaches around the coast, but volunteers also record the litter they find, and it’s this aspect that has really helped MCS change policy and behaviours over the last quarter of a century.

The 5p carrier bag charge, a ban on microbeads in wash-off products, discussions on a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, reduction in the use of plastic straws and the banning of lantern and balloon releases by local authorities – all have come about in Wales following compelling evidence gathered through decades of MCS beach cleans.

Gill Bell, MCS Head of Conservation, Wales says this year’s Great British Beach Clean in Wales has extra importance: “As 2018 is the Year of the Sea in Wales, we are part of the ‘All Wales Beach Clean’ with our partners in the Clean Seas Wales group. It’s a country-wide project aiming to get as many beaches in Wales surveyed and cleaned as possible. Not only will this remove lots of plastic pollution from the beaches but we hope to get a really comprehensive picture of the types of litter that end up on Welsh beaches. Importantly, we want to try and understand where it comes from so we can tackle it at source.”

Last year, during the Great British Beach Clean 555 volunteers across Wales picked up 17,774 litter items from 25 surveyed beaches. That’s an average of 677 litter items for every 100 metres cleaned, compared to 607.5 in 2016 - an 11% increase.

Beach cleans take place from Bridgend to Flintshire, Ceredigion to Conwy, Pembrokeshire to Glamorgan and all places in between. Across the entire UK last year 339 events were held for the Great British Beach Clean, which also incorporates the Great Channel Islands Beach Clean and the Great Northern Irish Beach Clean.

Beach litter has steadily risen over the 24 years since MCS began recording it. However, there was some good news last year because the number of single-use plastic bags found on UK beaches almost halved between 2015 and 2016. MCS says this was almost certainly due to the charges at the checkout in place in all four countries and shows the impact that policy and behaviour change can have on beach litter.

In 2017, ‘on the go’ items made up 21% of all litter found on Welsh beaches and 60% of all litter that comes from the public. MCS categorises cardboard cups, plastic cutlery, foil wrappers, straws, sandwich packets, lolly sticks, plastic bottles, drinks cans, glass bottles, plastic cups, lids and stirrers as ‘on the go’. The charity says the figures highlight the nation’s lazy habits when it comes to littering. The amount of litter suggests we’re treating the outdoors as a big dustbin, happy to dump at will rather than keep hold of our litter until we find a bin.

Cleaning and surveying a beach only takes a couple of hours at most. Each beach has a coordinator, who explains how to fill in a simple data form, and then it’s just a case of grabbing a litter picker and a bin bag and filling it up with rubbish!

“Beach litter is a serious environmental problem,” says Gill Bell. “But the solution is in our hands. We want the 25th Great British Beach Clean weekend in Wales to be the biggest ever. The BBC’s Blue Planet II has given the UK public a real understanding of the pollution crisis facing our oceans and people really want to make a difference. We need your help – so please support us and help make history in the Year of the Sea!”

Join The Great British Beach Clean and be part of the biggest and most influential fight against marine litter in the UK.

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery support the Marine Conservation Society beach litter programme.

Sign up to a clean near you at www.mcsuk.org/greatbritishbeachclean or call 01989 566017.

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Editors’ notes: The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to protecting our seas, shores and wildlife. MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide and the Good Fish Guide as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch. www.mcsuk.org.

MCS Beachwatch is MCS’ coastal environmental initiative, supporting local individuals, groups and communities in caring for their local shoreline. MCS Great British Beach Clean is our annual flagship event, now in its 25th year, and it occurs on the third weekend of every September. It represents the UK’s input to the global International Coastal Cleanup (representing 152 countries and locations), which occurs over the same weekend in September, providing a world-wide snapshot of marine litter.

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery support the Marine Conservation Society beach litter programme. • People’s Postcode Lottery is a charity lottery. Players play with their postcodes to win cash prizes, while raising money for charities and good causes across Great Britain and globally. • A minimum of 30% goes directly to charities and players have raised £310 Million for good causes across the UK.

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