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The amount of litter on British beaches has doubled during the past six years, says a survey of 150 sites by the Ma...
The amount of litter on British beaches has doubled during the past six years, says a survey of 150 sites by the Marine Conservation Society, which is appealing for volunteers for a big clean-up next month, reported The Sunday Telegraph (p6).

A press release from the society follows.

2001- A BEACHWATCH Odyssey

Call for volunteers

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) [1] annual Beachwatch [2] litter clean up and survey takes place over the weekend of 15th & 16th September 2001. Now in its 9th year, Beachwatch has become the most extensive monitoring programme in Europe for coastal and marine litter and mobilises thousands of volunteers in the nation-wide war on debris. MCS needs volunteers to help make Beachwatch 2001, supported by the Crown Estate [3], the biggest beach blitz ever.

Karen Riley, the Marine Conservation Society's assistant beachwatch officer said: 'The clean ups are a great way for people to contribute to a healthy coast, but Beachwatch achieves so much more than just cleaning beaches. The surveys provide MCS with essential data for targeting polluters, bringing the issue to the attention of government and highlighting the need for responsible public attitudes towards correct waste disposal.'

Alarmingly, since Beachwatch 1994, the density of litter recorded has almost doubled. Over 50% of litter found in Beachwatch is made of plastic. MCS believes that longevity of much of the plastic packaging material that becomes litter is the key factor leading to accumulation in the marine environment.

During the Beachwatch 2000 survey [4] 1,378 volunteers, collected over 185,482 items of litter from 150 beaches. The information they collected identified four major sources of litter on UK beaches: recreational beach users (35.1%), fishing activities (12.4%), sewage outfalls (6.5%) and shipping (2.2%).

Beachwatch, also part of the International Coastal Clean Up [5] has recently turned up some unusual finds, including a batman suit, a urine testing kit and a gla ss eye. Interesting historic litter has been collected including a pre-decimalisation Golden Wonder crisp bag, originally costing 5d and featuring a competition to win a Triumph Herald Estate!

Taking part in Beachwatch is an easy, fun day out and by becoming involved, people can take action to improve their coastline as part of an international effort.

Contact the Marine Conservation Society on 01989 566017 or e-mail for information and a registration form.


[1] The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK's national charity for the protection of the marine environment and its wildlife. Since its formation in 1983, MCS has become a recognised authority on marine and coastal conservation and is regularly consulted by Government for its views on a range of marine issues. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide, as well as promoting public participation in volunteer projects and surveys such as Adopt-a-Beach, Seasearch and Basking Shark Watch.

[2] BEACHWATCH is an annual event. Volunteers visit their local beach and remove all the litter from it, recording every item that they find. They then send the data back to MCS. It is analysed and reported in the Beachwatch report, published every February and available from the Marine Conservation Society.

[3] Beachwatch is part the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas which the Crown Estate is sponsoring from 2000 to 2002. As a substantial owner of marine land, sponsorship of the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas is part of the Crown Estate's commitment to the good stewardship of land in its care. The Campaign for Clean Seas also includes the publication of the Good Beach Guide (see here).

[4] Beachwatch 2000 - NB - these are statistics from last September's Beachwatch survey.

Summary of results 2000:

Summary StatisticsItem % of total litter Items/km

Volunteers 1,378Plastic pieces 1-50cm12.0212.8

No. of beaches 150Polystyrene pieces <>


Length (km) 104.2Rope/cord/net <>

Number of bags 1,186Crisp/sweet packets6.8121.6

Weight (kg) 5,274Plastic caps/lids5.7101.9

% from Tourism 35.1Cigarette stubs5.292.7

% from Fishing 12.4Plastic pieces <>

% from SRD 6.5Cotton bud sticks4.478.9

% from Shipping 2.2Plastic drinks bottles3.561.9

% Non-sourced 42.9Glass pieces3.358.3

Total no of items 185,482Rope/cord/net >50cm2.545.0

Mean items/km 1,780Plastic cutlery/trays/straws2.137.8

[5] The International Coastal Clean-up involving over 80 countries, is co-ordinated by the Center for Marine Conservation in the USA. This provides a 'snapshot' of the amounts and sources of litter washing up or being dumped on beaches around the world.

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