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Suffolk/Essex: Urgent action needed to tackle rising tide of litter on beaches

PUBLISHED: 11:08 27 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:10 27 March 2014

Beachwatch Big Weekend 2013 - The Felixstowe Society/Felixstowe Beach Huts Association

Beachwatch Big Weekend 2013 - The Felixstowe Society/Felixstowe Beach Huts Association

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Litter found on beaches in Suffolk and Essex is still steadily increasing each year – and the latest national shore survey found more rubbish per kilometre than ever before.

Volunteers who took part in the annual Beachwatch Big Weekend spotcheck picked up 223,405 bits of litter – 19,518 of them along Suffolk’s coast – compared with 181,978 in 2012.

Plastic was the biggest problem, with a large part of the waste left behind by visitors to the coast, but also rubbish that had been washed ashore, including a small amount of material dumped from ships and also lost fishing gear, including line, nets, weights, and floats.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said the number of pieces of litter per km in 2013 was 2,300 nationally, compared with 2,007 in 2012. In Suffolk, volunteers found 1,946 pieces per km and in Essex 6,045.

In Suffolk, 400 volunteers cleaned 24 beaches from Southwold to Felixstowe, covering 10 km and filling 173 bags with 286kg of waste.

The MCS said 39.4% of all the litter was dropped intentionally, left behind accidentally, or arrived on beaches carried on the wind or in rivers; fishing accounted for 12.6%; shipping 4.5%; sewage related debris 4.3%; but the source of 38% of the waste could not been identified. There was an urgent need for further action from various sources and Government.

Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch officer, said: “This is a disgusting tide of litter which is threatening the safety of beach visitors both human and animal.

“It’s coming in from the sea, being blown from the land or simply being dumped and dropped.

“After 20 years of campaigning it’s disheartening that in 2013 we are seeing worse litter levels than ever.”

Plastic remains the main concern – tiny bits of plastic that have broken off larger items or have been in the sea for possibly decades and become smaller and smaller.

Ms Eyles said: “Plastic is a real issue for our oceans and beaches. This year we also picked up lots of lids and caps.

“However, despite it being a really warm summer, we saw less crisp, sweets and lolly wrappers and fewer plastic bottles.

“There’s continued good news for sewage related debris – there’s still less of it about after we asked people, in 2011, to stop flushing things down the loo that should go in the bin.”

Andy Smith, Suffolk Coastal cabinet member for coastal management, said: “Thankfully, a large proportion of local people and visitors are responsible and do not litter the beach. However, what we cannot influence is what people do off-shore, dumping things from boats and ships.

“We know that the vast majority of litter on our beaches is washed up from far and wide. While we cannot control this, we can express our gratitude for the good citizenship of the many volunteers who work tirelessly to clear up this mess.

“Litter is not only an eyesore, it is a health risk to beach users and wildlife. I would appeal for everyone to play their part in keeping the beaches clean, no matter how far out at sea they may be!”

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