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New research reveals ‘disconnect’ between litter and marine plastic

New research has revealed that many people in Blackburn and Darwen and across the North West might not be aware that plastic litter in towns and cities can end up in the Irish Sea.

A survey conducted by YouGov for Keep Britain Tidy has found that only 32 per cent of people surveyed in the North West think that marine plastic comes from overflowing bins in towns and cities, and only 43 per cent of people think that plastic litter dropped inland ends up in the sea.

Plastic bottles floating in the oceanTwo million tonnes of plastic enters the sea in the UK by travelling down rivers. This carries devastating implications for marine life, with scientists recently finding that 100 per cent of animals found washed ashore in Britain had plastic in their stomachs.

According to statistics from the United Nations Ocean Conference, globally, plastic kills over one million seabirds every year, as well as 100,000 sea mammals, turtles and fish.

The YouGov survey showed that 72 per cent of people believe that plastic ends up in the ocean because people dropped it on the beach, while 64 per cent are aware that it can come from the fishing industry (for example, nets and hooks).

The survey was conducted as part of a collaboration between Keep Britain Tidy, the Environment Agency, and Natural Course, in a project aimed at connecting the dots between our use of plastic and the impact on marine life in the North West.

Allison Ogden-Newton, Keep Britain Tidy CEO, said: “Our new research seems to suggest that many people don’t realise their behaviour inland can have an impact on marine life, sometimes many miles away.

“However, littered plastic and items flushed down the loo can end up in rivers where they travel to the sea.

“There appears to be a disconnect between our behaviour and the impact on the environment, but that means we all have the power and opportunity to make real and positive change.

“Even better, we only need to take small and simple steps to have a huge impact.”

Supported by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Keep Britain Tidy has recently announced its Plastic Challenge in August.

The challenge will aim to encourage residents of the borough to consider how much plastic they use, and make small behavioural changes to fight plastic pollution.

60,000 leaflets have been distributed to households across the borough alongside the council’s recycling calendar, highlighting the problem and giving householders advice on what they can do to address it.

Residents are being encouraged to reduce, reuse, recycle and responsibly dispose of plastic, as well as being advised against the disposal of items such as wet wipes and period care products in the toilet, a significant driver of marine litter.

Those who sign up to the challenge will also receive weekly emails throughout August with information, guidance and support, and will be entered into a prize draw for plastic-free products.

The challenge will additionally see litter picking and river clean events hosted throughout August, ran by local groups such as Keep Darwen Tidy, the Noorul Islam Mosque, and the Ribble Rivers Trust.

Residents are being encouraged to take part, with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council providing free litter picking kits.

Councillor Jim Smith, Executive Member for Environment at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, said: “TV programmes like the BBC’s Blue Planet documentary have helped to raise awareness of marine plastic pollution,

“But as this research has highlighted, it’s not widely known that plastic litter from our streets, and plastic waste flushed down our loos, is adding to the problem.

“As well as that, plastic pollution can also block sewers and contribute to flooding.

“The Plastic Challenge campaign encourages people to reduce the amount of plastic they buy, and ensure that plastic is disposed of or recycled correctly.

“We hope that residents of Blackburn with Darwen will sign up to the campaign and the local litter picks, and help to prevent plastic pollution from entering the Irish Sea and endangering marine wildlife.”