UK's biggest beach clean heads to Hampshire
PUBLISHED: 15:35 11 September 2015 | UPDATED: 15:50 11 September 2015
The UK’s biggest beach clean and litter survey returns this September with events along our Hampshire coastline. Natalie French shares how you can prevent our oceans from becoming plastic soup
Last year 5,349 volunteers cleaned and surveyed 301 beaches across the UK collecting 2,457 pieces of litter per kilometre. In Hampshire alone, a whopping 17,279 pieces of litter were collected, from just 10 beaches across the county.
Amongst the array of materials washing up on our shores, one of the biggest threats to our seas is plastic. In over 20 years since the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) began monitoring beach litter levels in the UK, the amount of plastic bits and pieces has increased by 180%. This is turning parts of our oceans into a ‘plastic soup’ and our marine life is suffering.
Plastic bags, bottles and tiny plastic pieces are regularly found in the stomachs of sea creatures, including turtles – sometimes causing death from starvation or choking.
It’s no longer enough to swap the plastic carrier for a 10p recyclable bag. Plastic is found in every aspect of all our lives – from our plastic-packed sandwiches and bottled water, to the tiny particles in our toothpaste, shower gel and face scrubs! The minuscule microplastics get washed down our plugholes and are too tiny to be trapped in sewage works, so end up in the sea – only to be ingested by zooplankton and other animals, which are in turn eaten by other creatures higher up the food chain and, ultimately, devoured by us!
According to the MSC, many leading high street retailers – including Marks & Spencer, Boots and most supermarket giants - have promised to wash their hands of products containing microplastics and opt for natural products, which are just as effective and wont damage our seas.
“Our clamour for convenience is a sin for our seas,” says MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, Dr. Sue Kinsey. “It’s durable and lightweight, but it’s these properties that allow it to remain in the marine environment for hundreds if not thousands of years. Plastics are among the most persistent synthetic materials in existence and are now a significant and extensive marine pollutant.”
5 things you can do to protect our beaches...
1 - Scrub it out
Whilst the MCS work with UK retailers to secure a date when all own-brand products are plastic free – make sure you use the products you can trust. Brands that have never used microplastics include: ALL NATURAL SOAP Co., all brands of Botanical Brands, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Palmer’s, Sodashi, Sukin and Trilogy. And don’t be fooled into thinking that splurging on luxury beauty products will earn you eco points, as the MCS advise this is not always the case: “A supporter of MCS contacted Olay regarding the polyethylene listed in a face wash she uses and was told that as polyethylene is commonly used they won’t be phasing it out until alternatives are identified and qualified. We’ll be contacting the company to explain why a delay is detrimental to the ocean.”
MCS and Fauna & Flora International are now asking the public to keep and eye out for the following ingredients in high end products and upload mobile phone images of labels to its website so it can highlight to companies that luxury on your face could be liability for the oceans.
• Polyethylene / Polythene (PE)
• Polypropylene (PP)
• Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
• Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
• Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
2 - Don’t flush the unflushables
According to the latest Great British Beach Clean report, the number of wet wipes found on beaches increased by 50% in a single year! People now regularly use disposable moist cloths to remove make-up, replace traditional toilet roll and apply fake tan - resulting in piles of wipes landing on our beaches.
MCS Beachwatch Officer, Charlotte Coombes advises that the problem is that wipes, often described as flushable, are being put down the loo instead of thrown in the bin: “Our sewerage systems weren’t built to cope with wet wipes. When flushed they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper, and they typically contain plastic so once they reach the sea, they last for a very long time. They can cause blockages in our sewers, and then, everything else that has been flushed down the loo can either back up into people’s homes, or overflow into rivers and seas. Overflows also happen during excessive rainfall, or if the plumbing hasn’t been connected up properly meaning the wrong pipes are heading straight to the sea. That’s when we find Sewage Related Debris, including wet wipes, on the beach.”
3 - Lead a beach clean
If you can’t find a beach clean for your local stretch of coast, why not join the 900 passionate organisers and lead your own? The MCS has lots of resources to help you kick off your own Beachwatch beach clean. Visit www.mcsuk.org.uk for more details
4 - Break the bag habit
Whilst many folk now go to the shops armed with reusable bags, many do not. Others seem to purchase a 10p reusable every time, only to forget about it once home (guilty as charged!) New habits take time to become established, so make life easy by leaving reusable bags in the boot of your car or by the front door, so you remember them on your way out. As part of Marks & Spencers’ 5-year eco plan, all 100% recycled 10p ‘Bag for Life’, will be replaced for free once they start looking a little sad!
5 - Take the MCS plastic challenge
The official Plastic Challenge takes place from 1st – 30th June 2016, but many people are getting involved throughout the year, even if they can only commit to a day or a week.
“We want to change people’s attitudes towards single use plastics and to encourage people to value plastic as a resource – not just buying stuff without any thought of the environmental impact” says MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, Dr. Sue Kinsey.
Challengers are asked to leave pre-packed sandwiches, ready meals and on-the-go drinks, on the shelf and spread the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ message. There are plenty of great tip swaps on the MCS website, from replacing plastic-bottled body lotions with a glass jar of coconut oil; to using Ecover Laundry Liquid, with a bottle that can be refilled at various shops.
“People taking on the Plastic Challenge are often shocked to find out just how much single use plastic is used every day. Have a go at the Plastic Challenge, even if you can only manage a single day, and you’ll never look at your shopping in the same way again!” www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge
Get involved... volunteer
The Marine Conservations Society (MCS) is on a mission to tackle the tide of litter washing up on our shores and they can’t do it without the help of volunteers.
“Over the last decade, we’ve recorded a huge hike in the amount of litter found on our beaches – up by over 20%,” says MCS Beachwatch Officer, Charlotte Coombes. “We need help - and anyone can simply volunteer to take part.”
This year’s Great British Beach Clean takes place on the 18th – 21st September and will see thousands of volunteers take to the beaches all around the UK armed with a rubbish picker and bag. Not only will they clean up their beloved beaches, but record the rubbish they find.
If you want to show solidarity for our sea-life, Hampshire is hosting a number of events in a bid to clean up the county’s coastline.
Budds Farm, Havant
• Meeting location: South end of Southmoor Lane
• When: 9.30am – 11.30am, Saturday 19 September 2015
Southsea and Eastney
• Meeting location: The Coffee Cup café on the Esplanade (the nearest street with a postcode is Marine Court, PO4 9QU)
• When: 10.00am – 12.00pm, Saturday 19 September 2015
• Meeting location: By Rocksby’s café (PO5 3PG) between the Pyramids and South Parade Pier)
• When: 10.00am – 12.00pm, Saturday 19 September 2015
• Meeting location: Cut Bridge, on the corner of New Lane & Saltgrass Lane, Milford-on-Sea
• When: 1.00pm – 3.00pm, Saturday 19 September 2015
• Meeting location: Cams Mill pub car park
• When: 10.00am – 12.00pm, Sunday 20 September 2015
• Meeting location: Foreshore around Porchester Castle. Meet at Castle car park.
• When: 10.30am – 12.30pm, Sunday 20 September 2015
For more information or to register as a volunteer, visit: www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch