British beaches and wildlife under threat from tide of litter

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As more visitors flock to the English coastline, the Marine Conservation Society and coastal councils call on British public to play their part.

Since the lifting of lockdown restrictions, local authorities from around England’s coast are reporting unprecedented levels of litter. The Local Government Association Special Interest Group on Coastal Issues, alongside the Marine Conservation Society, is calling on the public to help protect the UK’s coastline this summer.

The LGA Coastal SIG has received numerous reports of high levels of discarded PPE such as single-use masks and plastic gloves along British beaches and in the water. Additionally, unprecedented levels of illegal “wild” camping have caused issues with human waste and toilet paper/wipes on our coast, as well as incidents of fire damage and injury from camp fires and BBQs.

This increase in single-use litter and pollution not only poses a threat to amazing British wildlife, but also blights the beautiful English coastline for other visitors and locals. In addition to well-publicised single-use litter like plastic bags, local authorities are reporting an increase in PPE related litter, with plastic gloves and masks adding to beach pollution. Much like other single-use litter, PPE poses a threat to marine life which can be entangled in it, or ingest it.

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.

Councillor Ernest Gibson, Chairman of the Local Government Association Special Interest Group on Coastal Issues: “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. 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.

For those who want to do more, the Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean, running from 18th – 25th September, needs more organisers than ever to adopt a 100 metre stretch of beach to clean and carry out a litter survey.

Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Officer at the Marine Conservation Society: “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. 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.”

To become a Beachwatch Organiser please visit the website here.

Find information on the Source to Sea Litter Quest here.

For more information or to contact the Marine Conservation Society please visit www.mcsuk.org

For more information on the LGA Special Interest Group on Coastal Issues, please visit www.lgacoastalsig.com

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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