National beach clean-up seeks volunteers
National marine charity the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is urging members of the public to volunteer for a nationwide coastal litter collection and analysis in September.
The Great British Beach Clean, part of MCS’s Beachwatch programme, aims to tidy up hundreds of beaches around the British coast whilst also recording the litter found.
Now in its 22nd year, Beachwatch is MCS’s coastal environment initiative and supports community groups caring for their local shoreline. It constitutes the UK’s action as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, which occurs over the same weekend in September.
During the weekend 18-21 September, volunteers will be asked to take to their local beaches to pick up and tally items of litter they collect. Using the data collected, MCS will then publish a Beachwatch Annual Support to raise awareness of the impacts of marine litter and promote measures to reduce litter at source.
According to last year’s report, 2,457 pieces of litter were collected for every kilometre covered by the 5,349 volunteers that took part.
The report noted a 6.4 per cent rise in beach litter between 2013 and 2014, though the amount collected did fall in Scotland, Northern Ireland and North England. Decreases in those areas were offset however by increases of 46 and 89 per cent in Wales and South West England respectively (largely from fishing and the deposition of marine waste due to prevailing winds).
Though small pieces of plastic remain the most frequently littered items, wet wipes became the fastest-growing littered item, with the number recorded by the charity – mostly recorded as ‘sewage related debris’ - rising by 50 per cent, with 35 found for every kilometre cleaned.
The results led to MCS campaigning to make the public aware that wet wipes, as well as cotton bud sticks, condoms, sanitary towels and nappies should be disposed of in the bin, rather than down the toilet.
Since launching in 1994, MCS claims that Beachwatch collections have picked up 5.3 million pieces of litter weighing over 150 tonnes.
Helping to solve a ‘serious environmental problem’
Speaking ahead of September’s event, MCS Beachwatch Officer Charlotte Coombes said: “Beach litter has steadily risen over the two decades we’ve been recording it on UK beaches.
“Last year’s Great British Beach Clean attracted almost 5,500 volunteers to over 300 beaches. It’s a citizen science project that has become the most respected and long-standing beach litter survey in the UK.
“Taking part in the Great British Beach Clean really can make a difference. In previous years when we’ve highlighted increases in dog poo bags and sewage related debris found on beaches we have seen drops in numbers subsequently. We hope we’ll see fewer wet wipes in 2015 following our mini-campaign showing why these material squares should go in the bin not the loo.
“Beach litter is a serious environmental problem, but the solution is in our hands. The first step is to register as a volunteer. We want the ‘Great British Beach Clean’ weekend to offer a snapshot of what the future could look like for the British seaside by reducing the amount of litter that reaches our shores”.
Find out more about The Great British Beach Clean.