Dirty loo habits pollute UK beaches

The latest litter survey from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says that sewage-related debris (SRD) from people's bathrooms is one of the major causes of beach pollution.

The survey reports a 40% rise in SRD, which would be avoided if people disposed of it in the waste bin.

Some of the most common items going through the sewage network system and ending up on the beach were cotton buds, nappies, sanitary towels, panty liners and condoms.

MCS Beachwatch officer, Lauren Davis, said: “Increasingly people seem to be putting things down their loos that belong in the bin.

“Cotton buds, condoms, tampons, tampon applicators and sanitary towels are being flushed away with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ perception.

“But sewerage networks and waste water treatment works are not specifically designed to remove these sort of items and unfortunately more and more are ending up in our rivers and then on our beaches.”

A total of 376 beaches across the UK were surveyed and overall there has been an overall increase in beach litter density of 88.5% over a 16 year period.

Litter was categorised into public litter, such as cigarette butts and plastic bags, fishing, SRD, shipping, fly-tipped and medical.

Plastic items accounted for the most of the top 10 litter items, many of which are hazardous to marine wildlife, such as plastic drink bottles and fishing line.

The overall percentage of plastic materials found account for over 75% of beach litter, this includes SRD and polystyrene.

Beaches in Wales were found to be the most littered, with Scotland in unenviable second place.

Some of the more unusual items found were a toilet seat, a moped and a dead cow.

The charity wants to get the message out to people to use their bathroom bins to dispose of items.

Lauren Davis said: “We want people to follow our simple message – bag it, bin it – but don’t flush it. Stop using your loo as a wet bin.”

MCS is campaigning for Defra act on the litter problem by developing a coherent, coordinated plan to tackle the problem.

Alison Brown

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