British beaches ‘littered with plastic’

The amount of plastic littering British beaches is at its highest level since records began, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

The organisation’s Beachwatch 2007 Report shows that plastic litter on beaches has increased by 126% since the annual survey began in 1994.

MCS campaigners say the rise is threatening marine wildlife which mistakes the plastic litter for food or becomes entangled in the debris.

The organisation says the rise can be attributed to an increase in the amount of plastic being used, but also to older plastic rubbish remaining on beaches.

Sue Kinsey, MCS litter policy officer, told edie: “I don’t think it’s because people are becoming particularly dirty in their habits, because people are becoming better at recycling.

“It’s partly to do with the increasing amount of plastic products.

“The other reason is there’s a lot plastic already out there that’s being broken down into pieces.

“One plastic bottle today would count as one piece, but in 20 years it could be hundreds of pieces.”

Visitors using beaches for recreation accounted for 35.3% of all the litter found during the 2007 survey, and MCS is encouraging individuals to take more responsibility for keeping beaches clean.

It is also urging Government to strengthen and enforce legislation to prevent littering.

Ms Kinsey said: “There are already existing laws about littering and dumping at sea and those need to be better enforced.

“But maybe it needs to go further – it’s up to Government to say ‘do we need tougher laws?’ and for retailers to say ‘do we really need that much packaging?’.”

For more information on the MCS’ efforts to make Britain’s beaches cleaner, visit

2007 beach litter facts:

  • Plastic debris accounts for more than 58% of all litter found on UK beaches
  • More than 170 species of marine wildlife have been recorded as mistaking plastic litter for food
  • In the last 10 years, plastic drink bottle litter has increased by 67%, plastic bags by 54% and cigarette butts by 44%
  • MCS volunteers cleaned up 346,000 items from 168.5km of coast in September 2007
  • The Beachwater 2007 survey found an average of 2,054 items per kilometre – or two items on every metre of beach
  • Kate Martin

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