Cleaner beaches despite plastic waste

The amount of litter on UK beaches has declined over the past year, the annual Great British Beach Clean has found.

However, plastic remains the worst source of pollution representing 75% of waste.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) – which hosts the event – said 6,176 volunteers participated and collected 5,064.8kg of trash.

He said the average litter recorded per 100 meters was declining year on year across the UK, with an average of 385 items found, down from 425 in 2020 and 558 in 2019.

As a sign that the restrictions are having some effect, the cotton swabs left the top 10 offending items with the lowest number found in the 28-year history of the investigation.

The number of single-use plastic bags on beaches also continued to decline, from an average high of 13 in 2013 to three in 2021.

But 75% of all waste collected was plastic or polystyrene, with an average of 112 pieces found per 100 meters of UK beach surveyed.

The MCS said the drop in waste levels was in part due to charges and bans imposed on single-use plastic bans

Its Head of Beach Watch, Lizzie Prior, said: “The continuing downward trend we are seeing in UK beach litter levels is a positive sign that the actions we are taking at personal, local and national levels work. But we can’t just sit back and relax, now is the time to act even more ambitiously. “

Plastic remained the most common form of litter on all UK beaches.

The levels of personal protective equipment found were similar to 2020 levels, when 32% had this litter, although discarded masks only rank 59 out of 121 for the most common litter items.

Wet wipes are regularly among the most common litter on Scottish beaches

In Wales, an average of 64 cigarette butts were found per 100m compared to just nine in 2020, which the MCS called “certainly concerning”.

Laura Foster, MCS Manager of Clean Seas, said: “The UK governments’ current piecemeal approach to single-use plastics policy will no longer suffice.

“While we are seeing a downward trend in litter on beaches, we are still seeing huge volumes of plastic litter washing up on our shores.

“An incredible 75% of all the litter we’ve collected from UK beaches this year was plastic or polystyrene, so it’s clear where we need to focus our attention.

“Comprehensive and ambitious single-use plastics policies that reduce the manufacture and sale of items are the fastest way to phase out plastic from our environment. “

Bryce K. Locke