Everything you need to know about getting involved in the Great British Beach Clean

Willing young hands clear litter from the Orwell foreshore at Trimley during the Great British Beach

Willing young hands clear litter from the Orwell foreshore at Trimley during the Great British Beach Clean last year Picture: SUFFOLK COAST AND HEATHS AONB - Credit: Archant

People in Suffolk are being encouraged to help spruce up the county’s coastline – and help provide a snapshot of its litter pollution problems.

Great British Beach Clean volunteers with some of the rubbish they collected from beside the River O

Great British Beach Clean volunteers with some of the rubbish they collected from beside the River Orwell at Trimley Picture: SUFFOLK COAST AND HEATHS AONB - Credit: Archant

This year’s Great British Beach Clean is the 25th annual event organised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), and the charity is looking for thousands of volunteers to help litter pick the shores and record what they find.

The event will take place from September 14-17.

Over the past quarter of a century the data gathered by the MCS has helped change attitudes and helped with a range of campaigns, including the 5p carrier bag charge, a ban on microbeads in wash-off products, consultations on a plastic tax and deposit return schemes, reduction in the use of plastic straws and the banning of lantern and balloon releases.

Last year saw almost 7,000 volunteer beach cleaners pick up record amounts of litter from 339 UK beaches – a staggering 718 bits of rubbish from every 100 metres cleaned, which was a 10% rise in the amount of beach litter picked up during the 2016 event.

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Beach litter has steadily risen over the 24 years since MCS began recording it. However, there was some good news last year because the number of single-use plastic bags found on UK beaches almost halved between 2015 and 2016. MCS says this was almost certainly due to the charges at the checkout and shows the impact that behaviour change can have on beach litter.

Lizzie Prior, MCS beach and river clean project officer, said: “Taking part in the Great British Beach Clean really can make a difference. In previous years when we’ve highlighted increases in dog poo bags and sewage related debris found on beaches, we’ve seen drops in numbers subsequently.

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“Due to the massive increase in wet wipes we found between 2013 and 2015 we were able to launch our ‘Wet Wipes Turn Nasty’ campaign which has resulted in improvements in labelling, removal of plastic from ‘flushable’ wet wipes in retailers’ own brands, and shown retailers the need for their flushable wipes to pass water industry standards.

“Beach litter is a serious environmental problem, but the solution is in our hands.

“We want the 25th Great British Beach Clean weekend to be the biggest ever. The BBC’s Blue Planet II has given the UK public a real understanding of the pollution crisis facing our oceans and people really want to make a difference.

“The more volunteers we have, the better it’ll be for our seas.”

In 2017, ‘on the go’ items made up 20% of all litter found on the UK’s beaches and 63% of all litter that comes from the public. MCS categorises cardboard cups, plastic cutlery, foil wrappers, straws, sandwich packets, lolly sticks, plastic bottles, drinks cans, glass bottles, plastic cups, lids and stirrers as ‘on the go’ items, which maxe up 20% of all the litter found last year.

For the second year running, the Great British Beach Clean in England is being sponsored by Waitrose who are supporting MCS’ year round beach and river clean programme.

Tor Harris, head of responsible sourcing and sustainability at Waitrose, said: “Our coast is important to all of us so the Great British Beach Clean is a key opportunity to reduce pollution, especially from plastics.

“We’re really happy to support such a fantastic event and this builds on our environmental commitment to ensure that all our packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025. We’d love for our customers and Partners (employees) to sign up and organise local beach cleans to improve them for wildlife and all of us.”

Cleaning and surveying a beach only takes a couple of hours at most. Each beach has a coordinator, who explains how to fill in a simple data form, and then it’s just a case of grabbing a litter picker and a bin bag and filling it up with rubbish. Sign up to a clean near you at the MCS website or call 01989 566017.

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