The forthcoming deposit return scheme will hopefully go a long way to reducing the impact of plastic waste on the environment but, until then, litter still poses a considerable problem – not least on Scotland’s coastline.
With that in mind, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), is looking for thousands of volunteers to clean up the country’s beaches during its 2019 Great British Beach Clean event (20 to 23 September).
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.
Last year, 2,913 volunteers took part, over 1,300 more than in 2017. They removed an incredible 75,807 individual items of litter, weighing 2,503kg, at 135 beach cleans along 15,680 metres of surveyed coastline.
The average number of items recorded per 100m cleaned and surveyed in Scotland was 559 which, although lower than the UK average of 600, was a 14% increase compared to last year.
The Great British Beach Clean is not just about picking up rubbish. Volunteer cleaners become citizen scientists, as they also record the litter they find along a designated 100m stretch of every beach that’s cleaned, and it’s this aspect that has helped MCS change policy and behaviours over the last 25 years.
Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland Conservation Officer, explained: “The 5p carrier bag charge, a ban on microbeads in wash-off products, consultations on a plastic tax, commitments to deposit return schemes, a ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds in Scotland and the banning of lantern and balloon releases – have all come about following compelling evidence gathered over decades by volunteers at MCS beach cleans. Since 2011, when the first 5p carrier bag charge was introduced, there’s been a decrease of almost 50% in plastic bags found on UK beaches.”
Sign up to a clean near you and if you can’t find an event on your preferred beach, call 01989 566017 and find out how to organise your own.