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Volunteers needed for Great British Beach Clean

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is looking for volunteers to help clean up the UK’s beaches during its 2019 Great British Clean Up, which will take place over the weekend of 20-23 September.

Volunteers picking up beach litter

Beach clean events are set to take place throughout the country as part of the nationwide project, with a full list of locations available on the MCS website.

The volunteers will act as citizen scientists, recording the litter they find along a designated 100-metre stretch of beach. This will only take a couple of hours at most, and the volunteers will be supervised by a beach cleaning coordinator, who will explain how to fill in the simple data form.

Last year, 15,000 volunteers took part in the beach clean – double the number in 2017. 2018’s beach clean was the largest MCS has ever organised, with 494 beaches cleaned around the UK coast, removing a total of 8,550 kilogrammes of waste.

Lizzie Prior, MCS Beachwatch Officer, explains that less beach litter will save marine wildlife: “Taking part in the Great British Beach Clean can really make a difference. In previous years when we’ve highlighted increases in dog poo bags and sewage-related debris found on beaches, we’ve seen drops in numbers subsequently.

“Due to the massive increase in wet wipes we found between 2013 and 2015, we were able to launch our ‘Wet Wipes Turn Nasty’ campaign, which has resulted in improvements in labelling, removal of plastic from ‘flushable’ wet wipes in retailers’ own brands, and helped introduce the ‘Fine to Flush’ logo – a water industry standard.

“Beach litter is a serious environmental problem,” added Prior. “But the solution is in our hands. We want the 26th Great British Beach Clean weekend to be the biggest ever. The BBC’s Blue Planet II and subsequent programmes have given the UK public a real understanding of the pollution crisis facing our oceans and now people want to make a difference.

“The more volunteers we have, the better it’ll be for our seas.”

This year’s beach clean will be sponsored by the Ocado Foundation – online supermarket Ocado’s charitable arm – which will be providing £300,000 in funding as part of the Environmental Pillar of its corporate responsibility strategy ‘The Ocado Way’.

Reducing beach litter

With the help of documentaries such as Blue Planet II, which shone a spotlight on the plastic waste crisis, public awareness of marine pollution has reached an all-time high.

Tackling beach litter has been identified as one of the key ways to get marine plastic waste under control. In 2016, environmental consultancy Eunomia Research and Consulting found that over 80 per cent of the 12.2 million tonnes of plastic entering the oceans comes from land-based sources and thus this is where efforts should be focused, particularly on beaches.

Actions have been taken by the government in recognition of this, with the Resources and Waste Strategy, published in December 2018, outlining plans to reduce plastic waste and litter through rolling out a deposit return scheme (DRS) for disposable drinks containers, introducing an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for plastic packaging to increase packaging capture and recycling rates, and laying out plans for a plastics tax for all packaging that contains less than 30 per cent recycled content.

The government has also confirmed that plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be banned in England next year, in a bid to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in the sea.

The 2019 Great British Beach Clean will take place over the weekend of the 20-23 September. You can sign up to volunteer at a beach clean near you on the MCS website.  

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