Record Breaking 2018 Great British Beach Clean Results

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Now in its 25th year, the Marine Conservation Society's 2018 Great British Beach Clean was the biggest mass participation beach clean and survey event ever to be held in the UK. The charity says the event, held over four days in September, involved just short of 15,000 volunteers – double the number in 2017.

In total, 494 beaches were cleaned and surveyed around the UK coast – 155 more than the 2017 event. Many of the beaches saw more than 100 volunteers participate in the event, with the largest turnouts seen at Pegwelll Bay in Kent, with 306 volunteers; 270 at Severn Beach, Gloucestershire; 155 at Swansea Bay and 146 at Ayr, South Ayrshire.

A total of 8,550kg of litter was picked up across the whole of the UK, with an average of 600 items of litter collected across every 100m of beach surveyed. This represents a reduction in beach litter over last year's event, which saw an average of 717 items of litter collected per 100m of beach. However, MCS Beach and River Clean-up Project Office Lizzie Prior warns against complacency in light of this year's lower numbers.

'In 2017 our volunteers picked up an average of 717 items of litter for every 100m they cleaned and surveyed, this year that figure dropped by 16 per cent,' she said, 'But it’s almost certainly a false dawn. UK governments must certainly not think the crisis is over and slow down or shelve any much-needed litter legislation. Litter levels fluctuate year on year and for the last decade have risen by over 15 per cent. The Great British Beach Clean is just a snapshot of the UK litter story and must be seen in the context of the broader trending picture. There’s more litter in our seas than there has ever been.'

On average, for every 100m of the UK coastline cleaned there were:

  • 189 plastic/polystyrene pieces
  • 38 plastic caps/lids
  • 21 cotton bud sticks
  • 16 drinks bottles and cans
  • 12 wet wipes
  • 5 plastic bags
  • 3 plastic/polystyrene cups

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MCS chart showing the amount of litter per 100m across the UK and the percentage change over 2017. Click the image for the full MCSUK report in .pdf format

On a very positive note, the sheer number of people who turned out shows that the mental tide on litter really is turning. ‘Picking up litter at the beach is now bang on trend,' said Lizzie. 'Social media feeds are filled with people’s pictures of what they find at the coast, on rivers and at sea. Finally, beach cleaning is cool and mainstream. So, we may have found less litter this year because so many more people are cleaning beaches whenever and wherever they can!'

MCS says the UK cannot beach clean its way out of its beach litter crisis. Following the iconic BBC Blue Planet II series, Drowning in Plastic documentary and Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign, public awareness has been raised over the damage our ‘throwaway’ culture has done to our seas, and the urgent need to reduce the amount of plastic we produce. The charity says one element of the solution is to create a genuine circular economy system in the UK where ‘waste’ is valued as a resource and used time and time again, rather than polluting the countryside, coasts and seas.

A deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is under development in Scotland and has been promised for England. MCS says the Government now has a golden opportunity to bring in the best system possible - one that will include all bottles and cans. This will not only ensure maximum participation and minimum confusion but will also mean that we see the greatest economic benefits in terms of cost savings, job creation and boosting the development of a domestic recycling infrastructure. A Defra consultation on DRS is expected in the coming months.

In England, there’s currently a Defra consultation taking place to gather people's views on proposals to ban the distribution and/or sale of plastic straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds (7th in the Top 10 list of beach litter finds this year) and plastic drink stirrers. The consultation is open until 3 December and you can make your views known at this link

Lizzie Prior says we must not let the impetus to solve the ocean pollution crisis slow down. 'It feels that we are on the precipice of being able to make positive changes when it comes to our plastic addiction. We’ve been blown away by the number of people who are cleaning the UK’s beaches either at organised events like the Great British Beach Clean or just at random trips to the beach.'


Click here for the full report from the MCS website. The Great British Beach Clean is held in partnership with Waitrose Supermarkets and is partly funded by the People's Postcode Lottery and Postcode Animal Trust. As a charity, MCSUK relies on public donations to maintain its excellent work. Click here to make a donation and help #STOPThePlasticTide






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