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MCS beachclean 1Jackie Clark / Marine Conservation Society

Amount Of Litter on UK Beaches Increases

The amount of litter found on British beaches has increased by 6.4% between 2013 and 2014, the UK Marine Conservation Society reports

The charity has summarised the findings of their annual Great British Beach Clean that took place from 19 to 22 September 2014. Since 1994, the volunteers participating in the event have collected 5.3 million bits of litter from nearly 3,000 kilometres of beaches, weighing a total of 150 tons

Here's the facts of the 2014 beach clean-up:

2,457 bits of litter per kilometre were collected from UK beaches in 2014. Here's a breakdown of the litter found per kilometre on beaches in different areas of the UK: 

  • 6,437     Wales 
  • 3,327     South West England
  • 2,409     South East England 
  • 2,372     North East England 
  • 1,803     Scotland 
  • 1,644     Northern Ireland 
  • 1,221     North West England 
  •    865     Channel Islands  

5,349 volunteers were involved in cleaning those beaches.  

In the last ten years, there has been over a 20% increase in litter on British beaches and a 6.4% rise between 2013 and 2014 alone. In 2014, the overall amount of litter found at beaches in increased compared to 2013  - South West England (+89%), Wales (+46%) and the Channel Islands (+19%) - but volunteers were pleased to find that the amount of litter at all other beaches has decreased, most notably by 77% in Northern Ireland. 

8 different litter sources have been identified:

  1. Public - plastic bags, food containers, glass bottles...
  2. Medical - syringes, plasters and inhalers...
  3. Non Sourced - pieces of wood, metal, rubber...
  4. Fishing - line, lures, hooks, nets...
  5. Sewage related debris - cotton bud sticks, wet wipes, nappies...
  6. Shipping litter - bits of rope, pallets, oil drums...
  7. Plastic pieces - the tiny plastic pieces that could not be identified
  8. Fly tipped - traffic cones, car pieces, paint tins...

101 different litter types are being recorded each year, of which plastic items make up the vast majority. 

Conservationists were particular concerned by the number of wet wipes found on British beaches which increased by 50% in just one year. that translates to 35 wipes for every kilometre of coastline cleaned in 2014. 

MCS beachclean 2N. Ewins / Marine Conservation Society

Reflecting on the ever increasing amount of litter collected, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, Dr Sue Kinsey said, 'There is an international obligation for the UK Government to take action to reduce marine litter under an EU marine directive. We therefore believe Government needs to produce National Marine Litter Action Plans for England and Wales, similar to those already produced for Scotland and Northern Ireland. There has to be a three pronged attack on marine litter led by new policies and action from Government, new practices from industry and behaviour change from the public.' 

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