Ocean Plastics

Unprecedented amounts of litter on UK beaches reported since lockdown easing

written by Oceanographic Staff

Local authorities from around England’s coastlines are reporting unprecedented levels of litter since the easing of lockdown restrictions. Both the Local Government Association Special Interest Group on Coastal Issues and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) are calling on the public to help protect UK coastlines this summer.

There have been numerous reports of high levels of discarded PPE, such as single-use masks and plastic gloves littered across UK beaches and found in the ocean. Additionally, high levels of illegal “wild” camping have resulted in issues with human waste and toilet paper/wipes on the coast, as well as incidents of fire damage from camp fires and barbecues.

lockdown litter great British beach clean

“Local authorities are working extra hard in these difficult circumstances by providing more bins and litter patrols, but people must start taking responsibility for their own litter,” said Councillor Ernest Gibson, Chairman of the Local Government Association Special Interest Group on Coastal Issues. “No one wants their children to be swimming in a sea full of used masks or burning their little feet on a discarded BBQ – put your litter in a bin or, if the bin is full, take it home with you.”

This increase in single-use litter and pollution puts our precious British wildlife at risk, and also ruins the beautiful English coastline for other visitors and locals. While people are well aware of the harm single-use litter like plastic bags can have, local authorities are reporting an increase in PPE related litter. Much like other single-use litter, plastic gloves and face masks pose a threat to marine life, which can become entangled in it, or ingest it.

lockdown litter great British beach clean

Local authorities are working hard to tackle this issue by increasing the number of bins and litter patrols on British beaches, and increasing toilet provisions in line with social distancing. However, every person visiting England’s outdoor spaces this summer can help, by being conscientious about litter.

“Every year, the Great British Beach Clean is a fantastic opportunity for us to get a sense of what litter is blighting the coastline, thanks to our litter survey,” said Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Officer at the MCS. “Data from the surveys have helped us push for policy change including the 5p plastic carrier bag charge. Taking part in this year’s events as an organiser is a fantastic way to protect your local beach, support your local community and help gather important data for our future policy work.”

For those who want to do more to protect UK coastlines, the MCS’s annual Great British Beach Clean, running from September 18-25, needs more organisers than ever to adopt a 100m stretch of beach to clean and carry out a litter survey.

For more information on the MCS Great British Beach Clean, click here.

Photographs courtesy of MCS.

For more from our Ocean Newsroom, click here.

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