The importance of data

2 minute read

Our beach cleans are a little bit different. We clean AND survey the litter found at the beach. The data YOU help to collect makes real positive changes to our marine environment.

Beachwatch Team

Gathering evidence for positive change

We have been running our national beach cleaning and litter survey work for nearly 30 years. This means we now have decades of data at our fingertips.

Every year thousands of people up and down the country either join a beach clean or run their own events. Some do this regularly on their own, others open these to the public so that more people can get involved.

This data is hugely important as it helps us track the common items we find on our beaches and then campaign for change.

This evidence is used to lobby Governments for legislative change, as well as to influence industry practices and to drive campaigns that lead to changes in individual behaviour.

From the plastic bag charge to banning microplastics in personal care products your data has helped to make some of the biggest and most significant impacts on beach litter ever.

Plastic is choking our oceans



of inland cleans found facemasks and PPE in 2021



drop in plastic bags found on UK beaches since 5p charge introduced

How do we record the litter items?

Our litter survey form lists all the main litter items you are likely to find over a 100-metre stretch.  It categorises each item according to what it’s made from with ‘plastics’ being the longest!

We ask you to record the data over 100 metres if you can so that we can make the data comparable, however, you can clean as much of the beach as you like!  95% of all litter items are likely to be found within a 100-metre stretch.

Where do we do the survey?

The survey is done along a 100 metre stretch which you have marked out within your beach clean area.

It goes along the strandline (the high tide mark – generally seen by a collection of seaweed left on the shore) and you should record all items found – no matter how big or small -  along the 100 metres and also width ways from the strandline to the back of the beach.


Credit: Aled Llywelyn

What happens to the data?

Our beach clean organisers upload their data to our website – if you’re an organiser you’ll be prompted to do this and shown where to do so when you log on.

This data is then automatically uploaded to our national database where we have been recording beach litter data since 1994.  Our long-term data set is unique in helping to identify trends and patterns over time so we can stop the pollution at source.

How has the data made a difference?

Your data has helped to make some of the most significant impacts on beach litter ever - the plastic bag charge, banning microplastics in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, banning or supporting a tax on single-use plastic items, and leading the way for a Deposit Return System.

We really have made a difference and we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you!

Why a Deposit Return Scheme is needed



tonnes of plastic enter our ocean every year


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

Who uses the data?

Every year we share our data with hundreds of organisations all working to help stop marine pollution. We regularly share our data nationally and internationally.

If you have a project which our litter data could feed into or if you have any further questions then please get in touch with our friendly team by emailing [email protected]

See the many ways to take action and get involved

What you can do