Be part of the biggest ever UK-wide beach litter pick

Image: Marine Conservation Society

The Marine Conservation Society is looking for volunteers to get on board with the UK’s biggest beach clean event.

There’s no doubt that being by the sea makes us feel better, and the Great British Beach Clean (15-18 September) isn’t just a good day out for people who love the coast – it’s great for wildlife and the beach too!

The Great British Beach Clean is the only UK-wide beach clean event that not only spruces up hundreds of beaches around the coast but records litter finds too.

In 2016, 268,384 individual pieces of litter were picked up by just under 6,000 volunteers who cleaned up over 360 beaches.

Beach cleans take place from Cornwall to Cumbria, Denbighshire to Devon, Hampshire to the Highlands and all places in between. It incorporates the Great Channel Islands Beach Clean and the Great Northern Irish Beach clean.

This year, the Great British Beach Clean in England is being sponsored by Waitrose who are supporting MCS’ year round beach clean programme. Between now and next June, MCS aims to organise 1,000 beach and river clean ups across England alone for people to participate in.

Beach litter has steadily risen over the 23 years since MCS began recording it. However, there was some good news last year because the number of single-use plastic bags found on UK beaches almost halved between 2015 and 2016. MCS says this was almost certainly due to the charges at the checkout and shows the impact that behaviour change can have on beach litter.

In 2016 tiny bits of plastic and polystyrene were the most frequently found litter items on UK beaches. But although fewer plastic bags were found, there was a shocking 50% rise in the amount of balloon related litter compared to the previous year and volunteer pickers found more drinks container caps and lids too – up 4% on 2015.

“Taking part in the Great British Beach Clean really can make a difference. In previous years when we’ve highlighted increases in dog poo bags and sewage related debris found on beaches we’ve seen drops in numbers subsequently. It’s because of the massive increase in wet wipes we found between 2013 and 2015 that we were able to launch our ‘Wet Wipes Turn Nasty When You Flush Them’ Campaign which has resulted in improvements in labelling, removal of plastic from ‘flushable’ wet wipes in retailers own brands, and shown high street heavyweights the need for their flushable wipes to pass water industry standard,” says Lizzie Prior, MCS Beach and River Clean Project Officer. “Plastic drinks bottles have consistently been in the Top 10 of items found on UK beaches and that’s why we’re pushing for deposit return schemes in all parts of the UK.”

Cleaning and surveying a beach only takes a couple of hours at most. Each beach has a coordinator, who explains how to fill in a simple data form, and then it’s just a case of grabbing a litter picker and a bin bag and filling it up with rubbish!

“Beach litter is a serious environmental problem,” says Lizzie Prior. “But the solution is in our hands. We want the ‘Great British Beach Clean’ weekend to offer a snapshot of what the future could look like for the British seaside by reducing the amount of litter that reaches our shores – so the more volunteers we have, the clearer that picture will be.

Sign up to The Great British Beach Clean (part of the Waitrose Beach and River Clean-up) and be part of the biggest and most influential fight against marine litter in the UK.

Sign up to a clean near you at www.mcsuk.org/waitrose or call 01989 566017.