Beach litter increased by more than a third in just one year, according to Marine Conservation Society (MCS) figures released today.
Run over one weekend last September, the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean saw thousands of volunteers survey and remove more than 275,000 pieces of litter from 340 beaches in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Last year fourteen National Trust beaches took part in the survey.
Now in its 22nd year, the Great British Beach Clean allows us to identify trends in the amount and types of litter washing up along the coast. Volunteers count and collect every item of litter found along a 100 metre line on a beach.
Problem of plastic
Compared to the previous year, 2015 saw an increase of over 40% in the number of plastic bottles found by Beach Clean volunteers.
The sheer number of bottles found during the Beach Clean has convinced the MCS to lobby UK and devolved governments for a deposit return scheme which would offer consumers a financial incentive for returning single-use plastic, glass and aluminium drinks containers.
Responding to the MCS results Phil Dyke, the National Trust’s Coastal and Marine Adviser, said: “The MCS’s latest Beach Clean results show just how big a problem marine litter continues to be. As an organisation that looks after more than 750 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have first-hand experience of the environmental and visual impact of litter on our shores.”
Unusual National Trust finds
Fourteen National Trust places took part in the MCS Great British Beach Clean last September, including Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire, Woolacombe in north Devon and East Head, west Sussex. At Formby on the Merseyside coast volunteers collected 62kg-worth of rubbish. A small plastic bin made an ironic find for volunteers at Woolacombe beach in Devon. Volunteers at East Head, Sussex, were surprised to find 6kg of micro-plastic (measuring 3mm in diameter) on an otherwise pristine-looking beach.
2015 saw the National Trust celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Neptune coastline fundraising campaign. Over the year our staff and volunteers uncovered some unusual pieces of litter at Beach Cleans across the country:
- 23 bags of plastic bottles at Chesil Beach, Dorset
- A toilet seat at Ayrmer Cove, south Devon
- Dumped gazebo at Northey Island, Essex
- A small plastic penis at Trenow, Cornwall
- Diving flippers, a chaise longue and underpants at Blakeney and Brancaster on the Norfolk coast
Plastic litter has long been an issue for the National Trust, but it only occasionally hits the headlines.
This happened earlier in the year when thousands of pink bottles appeared along the Cornish coastline from a container that had been lost at sea.
National Trust staff worked closely with local volunteers and other agencies to clear and dispose of over 7,000 bottles – with the manufacturer covering the disposal costs.
But as the bottles began to disappear so did the media.
National Trust Area Ranger on the Lizard, Justin Whitehouse, said: “Litter doesn’t go away. If you visit a beach and there’s little evidence of plastic litter, it’s more than likely because somebody, usually a volunteer, has been there already and cleaned it.
“Plastic never biodegrades; it just breaks down into smaller pieces, presenting a growing threat to wildlife. But by doing our bit and reducing the amount of plastic we use or taking two minutes to pick up litter whenever we head to the beach, we can start to reduce this threat to our landscape and wildlife.”
Taking part in the beach survey really helps to track trends with the litter turning up on our beaches. Sign up now for the next Great British Beach Clean on 16th – 19th September 2016.