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Source to Sea Litter Quest

3 minute read

No matter where you live across the UK, you can help keep our seas clean. Most of the litter that ends up on our beaches or in the sea starts its journey in villages, towns and cities miles from the coast.

What is Source to Sea Litter Quest?

Every year, thousands of people head to the coast to take part in a beach clean and record what they find there. But if you don't live near the sea, you can still make a difference to the health of our ocean by recording the litter you see in your local area.

80% of marine litter comes from land-based sources finding its way into streams, rivers or drains and ending up in the ocean, where it causes problems for ecosystems and sea life.

80%

of litter on our beaches has made its way there from inland sources

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Credit: Aled Llywelyn

As part of our inland litter cleans, we use the data you collect to track rubbish back to its source. Your survey results are then used to find solutions to ocean pollution and to campaign for measures to bring positive change.

Taking part is simple and you can make a difference wherever you are in the UK.

How to take part

There are 15 items to look out for when you head out on your litter quest. Taking part is simple:

  1. Download and print our Source to Sea Litter Quest form and check out our handy risk assessments to help you stay safe

2. Head to your local park, street or river and record which litter items you spot there - keep a tally of how many you find. If you are taking part with younger children, you can tick the form instead.

3. If it is safe to, and the litter is on public land, then please take the rubbish home with you - remember to recycle it wherever possible

4. Submit your litter data using our handy form. If you prefer, you can email us a photo or scan of your form to [email protected]

Submit your source to sea survey data

Tell us what you found

This year's Litter Quest items

Why your help matters

All of the data you collect on the beach, on your street or in a local park helps us campaign for change to protect our ocean.

Plastic bag charges

We’ve used data collected in previous years to make the case for carrier bag charges across the UK. Wales introduced charges in 2011 followed by Scotland in 2014 and England in 2015.

We know policies like carrier bag charges work. Since their introduction across the UK, we’ve seen a 61% drop (2011-2021) in the number of plastic bags we’re finding on beaches. The more data we collect, the more policies we can push for to make beach and ocean pollution a thing of the past.

Plastic bags in the ocean Rich Carey

Credit: Rich Carey via Shutterstock

Deposit return schemes

During last year’s Great British Beach Clean we found an average of 30 drinks-related litter items, like plastic bottles or drinks cans, for every 100m of beach surveyed. These items were also found on 99% of inland cleans.

We’re campaigning for deposit return schemes across the UK. These schemes mean you pay a small deposit on these items when you buy them, then when you return it to be recycled, you get your money back.

Scotland is set to introduce these schemes in August 2023. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are yet to bring in laws that will support a deposit return scheme. With your help we can provide evidence of the problem to encourage politicians to take urgent action.

99

%

of inland cleans found drinks-related litter in 2021

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE has been really important at keeping us safe during this pandemic, but unfortunately it hasn't always been disposed of properly.

PPE was found on almost 70% of inland cleans over Great British Beach Clean last year. We want to track how this changes over time since the pandemic began.

PPE mask on beach in Cornwall Natasha Ewins

Credit: Natasha Ewins

Wet wipes

Sometimes it’s hard to understand a single wet wipe can make such a big impact hundreds of miles away. But each year we find evidence of the impact of a single flush on our beaches and in our coastal waters. In 2020, we found 18 wet wipes on every 100m of beach during our Great British Beach Clean and these are consistently found in the top 10 most common litter items on Scottish beaches.

Many wet wipes contain plastic fibres which break down into microplastics and become harmful to marine animals. We’re calling for UK governments to ban single use plastic wipes.

Balloons

Letting balloons go and setting off sky lanterns may seem like a bit of harmless fun, but what happens when they float out of your sight and disappear from your thoughts? They land somewhere – either intact or in bits with their trailing strings and plastic ties.

Over the past 5 years, we've found on average 3 balloons per 100m during our Great British Beach Clean!

Councils all around the UK got involved in our ‘Don’t let go’ campaign and voted to ban outdoor balloon and sky lanterns releases.

Source to sea litter quest results

70

%

of inland cleans found facemasks and PPE in 2021

99

%

of inland cleans found drinks-related litter in 2021

61

%

drop in plastic bags found on UK beaches between 2011 and 2021

Submit your source to sea survey data

Tell us what you found