This September the Marine Conservation Society will run its annual Great British Beach Clean for a week of citizen science from 18 – 25th September 2020, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The charity is calling for more organisers than ever to adopt a 100 metre stretch of beach to clean and carry out a litter survey.
The Great British Beach Clean is more than just litter picking – people become citizen scientists and carry out a litter survey, recording what they find on the beaches to help show a national and international picture of the most common forms of litter. The Marine Conservation Society uses this data to call for policy change, tackling ocean pollution at its source.
During last year’s Great British Beach Clean weekend, citizen scientists across the UK collected over 500 litter items per 100m of beach, with nearly 11,000 volunteers taking part.
Like many events, this year the Great British Beach Clean looks a little different. Rather than encouraging volunteers to find a beach clean happening near them, the Marine Conservation Society is calling on individuals to adopt a 100m stretch of beach and organise their own beach cleans, with smaller groups of friends, family and ‘bubbles’, in line with Government guidance. This year the charity is hoping more organisers than ever before will take ownership of their local beaches to support the project and collect all important data.
The charity has made becoming an organiser, adopting a beach and doing the survey as easy as possible, with plenty of resources available on the Marine Conservation Society website and guidance from the charity’s Beachwatch team
Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Officer at the Marine Conservation Society says: “As more of us are looking to stay local this summer and head to the UK’s beaches, it’s even more important that we all take ownership of keeping them beautiful for everyone. We’d love to see more people than ever before signing up to organise their own beach clean. The more organisers we have, the more beach cleans we can run throughout the week and the more data we’ll have to push for policy which will reduce ocean pollution in the future.”
Data collected by Marine Conservation Society volunteers from 26 years of the Great British Beach Clean has been instrumental in the creation of policies which stop single-use plastic pollution at source: the 5p single-use carrier bag charge, the ban on plastic coffee stirrers and straws and the commitment to a Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland, alongside much more.
This year, the charity will ask volunteers to record how much personal protective equipment they find on the UK’s beaches, including gloves and masks. This information will show how prolific PPE has become and the danger it poses to the marine environment and wildlife.
Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society, says: “Single use plastic has been used increasingly during the pandemic, but we need to ensure this is not a permanent backwards step. At the same time, we’ve seen people spending more time outdoors and enjoying our beaches. We’re calling on the government for a truly green recovery, fit for a low carbon future. All-inclusive Deposit Return Schemes and an Extended Producer Responsibility system would make huge impacts on the volume of litter we see in the ocean, in our parks and across beaches. We need systematic change and ambitious policy to truly curb the litter polluting our ocean and environment.”
Everyone can play their part in the Great British Beach Clean this September, even when far from the coast. 80% of the pollution on beaches around the UK is from litter which has travelled from our towns, parks and rivers. Illustrating the impact of inland litter on beach pollution, the Marine Conservation Society’s Source to Sea Litter Quest highlights the most common beach litter and asks volunteers to spot them (and pick them up!) in their local area. The plastic bottles, wet wipes and face masks spotted in the UK’s parks and streets will ultimately end up on the beach; taking part in the charity’s Source to Sea Litter Quest will remove these potential polluters and show how important it is to keep our inland spaces clear, for the sake of the ocean.