The UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society [MCS], is looking for volunteers to register for a trip to the beach.
There’s no doubt that being by the sea makes us feel better and the Great British Beach Clean [16th- 19th September] isn’t just a good day out for people who love the coast – it benefits the beach too.
The Great British Beach Clean is the only UK-wide beach clean that not only spruces up hundreds of beaches around the coast but records the litter finds as part of a global beach clean count.
Plastic bottles and carrier bags, nappies, balloons, and tiny plastic pieces can be found on almost every beach in the UK – either washed up, blown there or dropped. Our beaches have never been so filthy, and most of the litter found can be traced back to us – the general public.
“Beach litter has steadily risen over the two decades we’ve been recording it on UK beaches. In fact we saw some of the highest litter levels ever last year with 3,298 items picked up per kilometre we surveyed,” says MCS Beachwatch Manager, Lauren Eyles. ‘Last year’s Great British Beach Clean attracted 6,035 volunteers cleaning 340 beaches – the most in our 22 year history of running clean-ups.’
The MCS Great British Beach Clean is a citizen science project that has become the most respected and long standing beach litter survey in the UK.
In 2015 tiny bits of plastic and polystyrene were the most frequently found litter items on UK beaches. The fact that these items are universally present on beaches across the UK speaks for an appalling widespread absence of awareness and practice of social responsibility.
There was a shocking 34% rise in beach litter between 2014 and 2015 with a big percentage rise in most drinks containers found on beaches. Plastic drinks bottles increased by over 43%, metal drinks cans by almost 29%, and – drinks container caps and lids were up by over 41%. Only glass bottles went down and that was only by less than 1%.
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’ve seen drops in numbers subsequently. It’s because of the massive increase in wet wipes we found between 2013 and 2015 that we have been able to launch our ‘Wet Wipes Turn Nasty When You Flush Them’ Campaign. In just a few weeks, over 4,000 people had signed our petition to demand clearer labelling on wipes to stop them being flushed down the loo.
MCS says cleaning and surveying a beach only takes a couple of hours at most. Each beach has a coordinator, who explains how to fill in a simple data form, and then it’s just a case of grabbing a litter picker and a bin bag and filling it up with rubbish.
Volunteers are also asked to record any branded items they find, to enable MCS to approach specific manufacturers and retailers and look at ways they can work with them to reduce the amount of rubbish from their products reaching our beaches.
Lauren Eyles says: ‘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.
MCS beach litter projects are supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, says: ‘It’s really important for everyone to learn about the dangers of marine litter and I’m delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting the Marine Conservation Society who are tackling this important cause. I would urge anyone who has the time to spare to take part in this beach clean.’
By participating in the Great British Beach Clean you can be part of the biggest and most influential fight against marine litter in the UK.
More information on the event and on volunteering to be part of it can be found online here.