MCS Calls for Volunteer 'Social Bubbles' to Adopt a Beach for GBBC 2020

great british beach clean 2020 title

Conservation volunteers at MCS beach clean 2019, Stevenston (Photo: Marine Conservation Society)

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) will run its annual Great British Beach Clean from 18-25 September this year, calling for more volunteers than ever before, but with new tactics to ensure participant safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than encouraging volunteers to seek a preo-organised beach clean event as is usually the case, this year, the charity is calling on individuals to adopt a 100m stretch of beach and organise their own beach cleans, with smaller 'bubbles' of friends and family, in line with current Government guidance regarding social distancing.

The Great British Beach Clean is more than just a litter-picking exercise. Volunteers become citizen scientists for the day, surveying the type and quantity of litter they collect and the location in which it was found. In 2019, almost 11,000 citizen scientists collected more than 500 items of litte per 100m of beach, data which is collated by the Marine Conservation Society to call for policy change from governments, both in the UK and abroad.

MCS made becoming an organiser, adopting a beach and doing the survey as easy as possible, with plenty of resources available on the Marine Conservation Society website, and guidance from the charity’s Beachwatch team available.

'As more of us are looking to stay local this summer and head to the UK’s beaches, it’s even more important that we all take ownership of keeping them beautiful for everyone,' said Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Officer at the Marine Conservation Society 'We’d love to see more people than ever before signing up to organise their own beach clean. The more organisers we have, the more beach cleans we can run throughout the week and the more data we’ll have to push for policy which will reduce ocean pollution in the future.'

great british beach clean 2020 litter

Much of the litter found on the beaches originates inland (Photo: Marine Conservation Society)

This year, the charity will ask volunteers to record how much personal protective equipment (PPE) they find on the UK’s beaches, particularly the gloves and masks that many people are using for protection against covid-19. This information will show how prolific the use of PPE has becomem and the danger it poses to the marine environment and wildlife if not discarded properly.

'Single use plastic has been used increasingly during the pandemic, but we need to ensure this is not a permanent backwards step,' said Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society. 'At the same time, we’ve seen people spending more time outdoors and enjoying our beaches. We need systemic change and ambitious policy to truly curb the litter polluting our ocean and environment.'

Volunteers can take part even if they don't live close to the coast. 80 per cent of the litter found on the UK's beaches originates inland. The MCS 'Source to Sea Litter Quest' highlights the most common items of litter - such as plastic bottles, wet wipes, and now face masks - that make their way from towns to beaches, encouraging people to spot them and collect them for proper disposal, before they find their way to the sea.

Data collected by Marine Conservation Society volunteers from 26 years of the Great British Beach Clean has been instrumental in the creation of policies which stop single-use plastic pollution at source: the 5p single-use carrier bag charge, the ban on plastic coffee stirrers and straws and the commitment to a Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland.


To become a Beachwatch Organiser please visit the Beachwatch website, and visit the Source to Sea Litter Quest homepage to get involved with inland cleanups. For more information or to contact the Marine Conservation Society please visit




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