Littering of beaches endangers wildlife

A RISING tide of plastic bags is littering East Anglia's beaches and endangering wildlife, according to a report published today .The report, by the Marine Conservation Society, is based on surveys carried out in September last year and suggests that more litter was dropped on the region's beaches than in 2004.

By David Green

A RISING tide of plastic bags is littering East Anglia's beaches and endangering wildlife, according to a report published today .

The report, by the Marine Conservation Society, is based on surveys carried out in September last year and suggests that more litter was dropped on the region's beaches than in 2004.

Andrea Crump, the society's litter projects co-ordinator, said: “It is disappointing but the situation in East Anglia and the rest of the South-East of England is considerably better than the South-West where much more litter is dropped.”


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East Anglia is included in the regional results for the South East which show that an average of 1,847 items of litter were found along every kilometre of the 87 beaches surveyed.

In Suffolk however, where 17 beaches were surveyed by a total of 325 volunteers, the average was 1,539 items per kilometre.

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In 2004 the average number of items of litter per kilometre in the South East was 1,790 although in 2003 it was 2,371.

An analysis of the sources of the litter found in the latest survey suggests that 30% is due to visitors, 12% to fishermen and 2% to both sewage works and shipping. The origin of about 44% of the litter found could not be determined.

Most common litter items included plastic bags, wrappers and drinks bottles, “cotton bud” sticks, fishing lines and ropes and cigarette stubs.

Lynn Allen, who runs the Adopt-a-Beach litter clearance and survey scheme in Suffolk, said: “I am encouraged by the number of people who care enough about the state of our coastline and estuaries that they are prepared to get out there and do something.

“We must try to encourage those who are dropping litter to think twice and we also need to raise awareness of the impact of litter on the environment and wildlife. Plastic stays in the environment for ever unless someone picks it up.”

Simon Hooton, manager of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Unit, said the main “grot spots” along the Suffolk coast tended to be isolated stretches - away from seaside resorts which were regularly cleared by the local authorities.

They included Bawdsey, near Felixstowe, where some of the unit's staff and a group of volunteers, cleared litter on Friday.

“We often don't know whether litter found on these stretches is from visitors to the locations or is litter blown in by the wind or brought in by the tides,” he said.

Mr Hooton said litter was a hazard to wild birds. “I have seen a seagull with its foot trapped in a tin can. Ring pulls and plastic bindings can also become attached to the feet of birds,” he added.

Nearly 4,000 volunteers took part in the latest Beachwatch survey which recorded an increase in the amount of litter found in all regions of the UK.

A total of 332 beaches were surveyed and 330,000 individual items of litter were collected.

Plastic bags found increased by 17% on the previous year and “fast food” litter increased by 37%.

The Marine Conservation Society is backing calls for customers to be charged for the plastic bags they obtain from supermarkets and other shops. A 10p per bag levy is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament.

The society also wants to see more cigarette bins placed in beachfront areas and outside food and other retail outlets.

The Beachwatch report followslast week's Spring Clean Suffolk initiative co-ordinated by the Suffolk Agricultual Association and backed by the East Anglian Daily Times.

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