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Marine Life & Conservation

Results of Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean show concerning volume of PPE litter

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Charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean results are word of warning on PPE pollution

This year, the Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, took place against the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic. As the charity introduced measures to ensure beaches could still be cleaned and surveyed in accordance with guidelines, it also asked volunteers to record face masks and plastic gloves for the first time.

The charity’s citizen science project gives an insight into the most common forms of litter blighting UK shores. This year’s results are supported by inland data collected by volunteers embarking on the charity’s Source to Sea Litter Quest.

The results from this year’s Great British Beach Clean show a concerning, but perhaps predictable, presence of PPE litter. Face masks and gloves were found on almost 30% of beaches cleaned by Marine Conservation Society volunteers over the week-long event. The inland Source to Sea Litter Quest data shows a similarly worrying presence of masks and gloves, with more than two thirds (69%) of litter picks finding PPE items.

Lizzie Prior, Great British Beach Clean Coordinator at the Marine Conservation Society said: “The amount of PPE our volunteers found on beaches and inland this year is certainly of concern. Considering mask wearing was only made mandatory in shops in England in late July, little more than three months before the Great British Beach Clean, the sharp increase in PPE litter should be a word of warning for what could be a new form of litter polluting our beaches in the future.”  

Like many other single-use items, disposable face masks and gloves pose a threat to wildlife on land and at sea. Marine animals could mistake face masks and gloves for prey, filling their stomachs with materials which will not break down and could prove to be fatal. Animals also risk being tangled in the straps of face masks, with seabirds’ feet pictured recently being wrapped in the elastic strings.

Drinks litter continues to be found on UK beaches, with an average of 30 drinks containers, caps and lids being found per 100m of beach surveyed this year. Inland, almost all litter picks (99%) found drinks litter. This continued blight to the UK’s shores and inland spaces illustrates the urgent need for governments to follow Scotland’s lead and introduce an all-inclusive Deposit Return Scheme.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society said: “This year’s Great British Beach Clean data, in addition to the Source to Sea Litter Quest data, shows just how crucial it is that Wales, England and Northern Ireland follow in the footsteps of Scotland and urgently introduce an all-inclusive Deposit Return Scheme.

“Despite lockdown, with many of us spending more time at home, littering in public spaces has continued unabated. Almost every single local litter pick found at least one drinks container, which is incredibly concerning. An effective Deposit Return Scheme would take the UK one step closer to a circular economy model and drastically reduce the volume of single-use pollution in the UK’s streets, parks and on our beaches.”

The top 5 most common litter items on UK beaches in 2020 (average per 100m of beach surveyed):

  1. Plastic and polystyrene pieces (0-50cm) – 167.2
  2. Plastic and polystyrene caps and lids – 19.7
  3. Wet wipes – 17.7
  4. Cigarette stubs – 16.2
  5. Plastic string – 15.8

For more information about the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean and year round Beachwatch programme, please visit the charity’s website.

Marine Life & Conservation

Video Series: The CCMI Reef Lectures – Part 4 (Watch Video)

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Introduced by Jeff Goodman

Never before since human beings have had major influence over our earths climate and environments, have we come to so close to the brink of global disaster for our seas and marine life. We need to act now if we are not going to crash headlong into irreversible scenarios.

A good start to this is understanding how the marine environment works and what it means to our own continued survival. We can only do this by listening and talking to those with the experience and knowledge to guide us in the right direction.

CCMI (Central Caribbean Marine Institute) are hosting an annual Reef Lecture series that is open to the general public and Scubaverse will be sharing those lectures over the coming months.


Part 4: Stop Whining! Life as an Ocean Ambassador; Ellen Cuylaerts

Ellen Cuylaerts shares her insights on how to act, practice what you preach and use your voice to contribute to constructive change. Ellen is a wildlife and underwater photographer and chooses to take images of subjects that are hard to encounter like harp seal pups, polar bears, orcas, beluga whales and sharks, to name a few. By telling the stories about their environment and the challenges they face, she raises awareness about the effect of climate change on arctic species, the cruel act of shark finning and keeping marine mammals in captivity.

During this seminar, Ellen will take you on a virtual trip and show you the stories behind the shots: how to get there, how to prepare, how to create the most chances to come home with a shot, and how to never give up!

Ellen Cuylaerts is an ocean advocate, underwater & wildlife photographer, explorer, and public speaker.


For more information about the CCMI click here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Fit filters in washing machines and slow the tide of ocean plastic

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The Marine Conservation Society’s Stop Ocean Threads campaign, which is calling for all new washing machines to be fitted with microfibre filters, by law, by 2024, aims to stop plastic pollution at source by filtering microscopic plastics from washing machine waste water.

To date the charity’s petition has been signed by over 12,000 people. The petition calls on government to introduce legislation which requires all new washing machines to be fitted with microfibre filters by law. Now, the charity is taking direct action and encouraging supporters to tweet washing machine manufacturers, putting pressure on them to fit filters on all new washing machines and slow the tide of microfibres entering the ocean.

Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society revealed that most (81%) adults surveyed supported legislative change and a quarter (26%) of those said that they would be willing to pay an additional £50 or more for a washing machine fitted with a microfibre filter. Not only is there is clear public support for legislation to Stop Ocean Threads, but consumers are willing to pay extra for their washing machines to have ocean-friendly credentials.

It’s increasingly important to put this issue top of the agenda for washing machine manufacturers who can take action now helping to address the microplastic issue, rather than waiting for legislation to be put in place.

Dr Laura Foster, Marine Conservation Society’s Head of Clean Seas says: “Our research has found that the public is largely supportive of our call for legislation, and consumers are willing to pay a little more to reduce the flow of microplastics into the ocean.

“It’s fantastic to see the support our petition has received so far, but now we need the public to show their support and join our action to engage with manufacturers directly. If we can show manufacturers that the public wants these filters fitted as soon as possible, we hope to speed up the legislative process and get filters fitted in the near future.”

Members of the public are encouraged by the Marine Conservation Society to go direct to washing machine manufacturers, and get involved in the charity’s tweet action.

“Hey @Miele_GB @BekoUK @Hoover_UK @BoschUK @SamsungUK @WhirlpoolCorp  We want washing machine manufacturers to commit to fitting microfibre filters before 2024. Will you do this and help us #StopOceanThreads? Please retweet and share far and wide”

To sign the charity’s Stop Ocean Threads petition, visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website. Find out more on how to get involved in the direct action here.

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