Plastic waste and fishing debris are the two top sources of beach litter according to survey

Photo caption: A volunteer collects litter and data for MCS survey in October 2007. copyright T Fanshawe

The amount of plastic littering Britain’s beaches is at its highest level since records began, according to the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Beachwatch 2007 survey report published yesterday.

The MCS Beachwatch 2007 Report shows that plastic litter on our beaches has increased by a staggering 126% since the annual survey began in 1994.

Plastic debris now accounts for over 58% of all litter found on UK beaches, including plastic bags and plastic drinks bottles. Plastic-based cigarette butts are also amongst the most frequently encountered litter items.

Over 170 species of marine wildlife including seabirds, turtles and whales have been recorded mistaking marine litter for food resulting in starvation, poisoning and fatal stomach blockages.

Plastic packaging and discarded fishing nets also injure, entangle and drown some seals and dolphins.

“The results are truly shocking,” said Emma Snowden, MCS Litter Projects Coordinator, “The Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch volunteers remove tons of litter from beaches, and using the survey data they collect, MCS is raising awareness about this serious situation and the solutions. The plastic litter problem needs to be tackled at all levels, from grassroots through to Government, while industry and retail sectors must acknowledge the need to reduce plastic bag use and packaging”.

The MCS Beachwatch 2007 Report is based on data collected by almost 4,000 volunteers on 354 UK beaches surveyed in mid-September 2007. Volunteers surveyed 168.5km of coast and removed over 346,000 litter items. This latest report identifies four key sources of beach litter – recreational & beach visitors (35.3%), fishing litter (13.7%), sewage related debris/sanitary waste (6.1%) and shipping litter (1.8%).

The full MCS Beachwatch 2007 results can be downloaded at .

Copyright Fran Crowe

Copyright R hosking / BBC