Ocean Plastics

National UK beach clean finds more than 16,000 cans and bottles in four days

written by Oceanographic Staff

In one weekend, nearly 11 tonnes of litter was cleared from the UK’s coastlines, thanks to the Marine Conservation Society‘s (MCS) Great British Beach Clean. The national event saw more than 10,000 volunteers head out to the coast to clean and survey 437 beaches, from Scotland’s Shetland Islands to the Channel Islands.

“Great British Beach Clean data has been instrumental in pushing for policies and initiatives which have made a real change to the marine environment,” said MCS Beachwatch officer Lizzie Prior.

On average, there were approximately 558 items of litter on every 100 metres of beach that were cleaned and surveyed in the UK. Plastic and polystyrene pieces the most common litter items found, followed by cigarette ends and glass pieces. Additionally, 16,000 drinks containers of varying forms were recorded by MCS citizen scientists. This highlights a need for a comprehensive deposit return scheme (DRS) to try and stem the flow of harmful waste into the ocean.

The damaging impact single-use plastic bottles have on marine life is becoming widely known, but the MCS have said that glass bottles and metal cans also pose a significant threat to marine life. The MCS wants glass to be included in any DRS. The Scottish government has agreed to this but the proposals have stagnated in England and Wales.

“It’s important to ensure we’re not taking our foot off the pedal to push the UK’s governments to adopt all-inclusive DRS at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Laura Foster, the MCS’s head of clean seas. “The Scottish government’s commitment to an all-inclusive DRS is a fantastic step in the right direction, but it must be designed to include all drinks containers and must not exclude glass. Delaying the implementation of DRS by a year would result in 50m additional empty containers littering our beaches, [so] it’s imperative that the 2021 implementation date is adhered to.”

To read the full Great British Beach Clean 2019 report, click here.

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