The amount of rubbish on the UK’s beaches has hit a record high level, according to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS)’s Beachwatch survey. The amount of litter has increased by 110% since 1994, with an average of 2,195 pieces of rubbish per kilometre.
Average levels of litter have risen in almost all areas of the UK since 1997. Beaches in the South-West have the highest density of rubbish, at 4,784 items per kilometre, and Scotland had the highest litter average of all regions surveyed this year.
More than a third of the litter dropped came from the public, with the rest coming from fishing, sewage and shipping. Plastic was the most frequently found item of rubbish, with a 148% rise in the density of plastic waste since 1994.
Emma Snowden, co-ordinator at the MCS, says: ‘Litter can harm and kill wildlife through ingestion and entanglement.’ More than 170 species, including seabirds, turtles and whales, have been known to mistake litter for food, which can lead to starvation, poisoning and fatal stomach blockages
The MCS also notes that it costs millions of pounds to clear up the coastline, and wants the government to develop a ‘co-ordinated marine litter strategy’.
However, environment minister Huw Irranca-Davies says: ‘Ultimately this is an issue of personal responsibility.’
The MCS are petitioning the government to establish specific bodies across the UK to work together to prevent marine litter. Miss Snowden says: ‘We want to see zero waste on Britain’s beaches and our first goal is to halve the litter on Britain’s beaches by 2015. In order to achieve this, we need to appoint lead agencies with the specific responsibility to stop marine litter and develop a marine action plan now.’