Source to Sea Litter Quest
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. Taking part in our Source to Sea Litter Quest means that no matter where you live across the UK, you can help keep our seas clean.
Every year thousands of people head to the coast to take part in a beach clean and note down what they find. But for those of you who don't live near a beach, or who may have noticed a litter problem area in a park or street near you, we need your help too!
Last year, 70% of litter picks that took place on streets and in parks found PPE litter, 99% found drinks containers.
Taking part this September is simple, all you need to do is download the survey form, grab some gloves and a litter picker, if you have one, and head outside!
How to take part
- Download our Source to Sea Litter Quest form and head out to see what litter you can spot.
- If you're taking part with younger children you can ask them to tick the form when they spot an item
- Adults and older children can use the sheet to keep a tally of how many of each item you see
- If it's safe to do so, and the litter is on public land, then please pick up the rubbish and take it home, remember to recycle where possible
- We've created some handy risk assessments for you to use to ensure you, and the citizen scientists who join you, stay safe – you can download the risk assessments below
- Submit your litter data using our handy form or if you prefer you can email us a photo or a scan of your form – and we'll use your valuable data in our vital research to combat ocean pollution.
This year's survey form includes PPE
Credit: Billy Barraclough
Join our campaign for change
All of the data you collect on the beach, on your street or in a local park helps us campaign for change.
We’ve used data collected in previous years to make the case for the 5p carrier bag charges across the UK, and are campaigning for Deposit Return Schemes for all types of drinks containers.
What’s more, we know policies like the 5p carrier bag charges work. Since their introduction from 2011 across the UK we’ve seen a 55% drop in the bags we’re finding on beaches. The more data we collect, the more policies which we can push for to make beach and ocean pollution a thing of the past.
Since their introduction from 2011 across the UK we’ve seen a 55% drop in the bags we’re finding on beaches. The more data we collect, the more policies which we can push for to make beach and ocean pollution a thing of the past.
Our data has helped tackle the number of plastic bags littering our beaches
Credit: Rich Carey via Shutterstock
Why your help matters
We know that litter from towns, parks and even the remotest country lanes often make their way down to our ocean. Every item dropped in the street has the potential to pollute our seas by travelling down rivers and streams, being washed down drains or by being blown onto our beaches.
As part of our litter cleans we collect data to track rubbish back to its source - our survey results are then used to find solutions to ocean pollution, and to campaign for measures to bring positive change.
This year we’ve chosen 14 items for you to record and report back to us – these items have been picked, and by taking part in our inland cleans, you can help us, keep our seas safe and healthy – for us all to enjoy.
This year's Litter Quest targets
What we're looking for
- Glass bottles
- Metal drink cans
- Plastic drink bottles
- Loose plastic cases/lids
- Plastic drink cups
- Polystyrene cups
- Paper cups
Litter like this can end up in the ocean
Credit: John Cameron
During last year’s Great British Beach Clean we found an average of 30 drinks-related litter items for every 100m of beach, and all these items were also found on 99% of inland cleans.
We want to see deposit return schemes across the UK where you pay a small deposit on these items when you buy them. Then when you return it you get your money back.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland have 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.
What we’re looking for
- Plastic bags for life
- Single-use plastic bags
- Polystyrene fast-food containers
Although there has been a charge in single-use plastic carrier bags since 2015 for at least 5 years (Wales introduced it in 2011, Scotland in 2014 and England in 2015), 'bags for life' have been encouraged as a reusable alternative.
But we suspect that these may still be used as a single-use item, and so still harming our environment. Your data will help us to understand the extent of the problem.
Your data can help campaign for positive change
Credit: Masha Kotliarenko - Unsplash
Since the 5p bag charges were introduced across the whole of the UK we have seen over 50% drop in single-use plastic carrier bags on our beaches (comparing 2015 data with 2020). But we want to know if this dramatic drop can also be seen inland – can you help us spot this serial offender?
What we're looking for
- Single use plastic gloves
- Single-use face masks
PPE has been really important during this pandemic at keeping us safe but unfortunately it hasn't always been disposed of properly.
PPE such as gloves and face masks featured in litter cleans in 2020
Credit: Matt Barnes
PPE was found on almost 70% of inland cleans over Great British Beach Clean last year. We want to see how common it is one year on.
What we’re looking for
- Wet wipes
Sometimes it’s hard to understand how an innocent balloon or 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, or a drifting birthday balloon on our beaches and in our coastal waters.
Marine wildlife can become tangled in balloons
Credit: Tara proud
Last year we found 18 wet wipes on every 100m of beach during our Great British Beach Clean and evidence of marine wildlife entangled in balloon strings.
We need to find out where these items are coming from, because by tracking them back through the sewage system, and understanding more about their journey from our streets and parks, we can put a stop to pollution.
What will your survey find this year?