Eco Comment – Great British Beach Clean

14 September 2023

I happened to read a review for a radio programme and was so intrigued that I listened to it on BBC Sounds. It chimed so much because I knew that this weekend was designated the Great British Beach Clean. Amongst other things mentioned in the broadcast are 50,000 Lego sharks which have never been found from a cargo container that was lost overboard in a freak wave in 1997 off the coast of Cornwall. Who knew that as well as the millions of coincidentally sea-themed Lego, there was so much plastic now buried in the seas (almost a new geological plasticine era) and also washed up on beaches? Trawlers catch it in their nets, locals make art out of the debris, one person sieves the sand as so much of the plastic is the size of a lentil!
Last year 67% of all items found on the Great British Beach Clean in England was plastic/polystyrene and almost 40% of the litter collected was litter that the public hadn’t disposed of correctly, usually left on beaches, blown in off the street or carried by waterways. The 3,299 volunteers in England alone cleaned and surveyed over 18 miles of beach and collected 1,598kg of litter across 214 events. 309 litter items were found on average per 100m stretch of beach, which was a 20% decrease from 2021.

Dr. Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society said “It’s good news that litter levels are dropping, albeit slowly … Government actions have been highly effective, from introducing carrier bag charges to the banning of single use plastic items … [But] there is a worrying increase in the amount of glass pieces being found, suggesting that glass is now frequently being littered”. The solution to this could be implementing the Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) throughout the UK, something which the Scottish Government will be introducing next year and hopefully the rest of the UK will follow suit.

As well as the focus on physical litter, the volunteers are trying to persuade the UK government to stop the release of harmful chemicals into the sea, an invisible form of litter. See also the Ocean Conservancy Fighting for Trash Free Seas.

If you’re interested in volunteering to help, information is available on the Marine Conservation Website. You don’t have to wait for this weekend to come round though as it’s possible to record any finds on the Clean Swell app.

And lastly, this week sees the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals being highlighted in New York. As a consequence, this weekend is a global weekend of action for many who want to highlight this IPCC Stock Taking report. Whether you want to join the Green Christian movement and protest in person in Briggate, Leeds on Saturday 12pm at the ‘Rally for a Just Transition Phase Out Fossil Fuels’ or take the quieter way and pray for those making the decisions is a personal choice.

Both, however, will no doubt be welcomed.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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