Number of plastic bags on UK
beaches drops by almost 40% in just 1 year
THE number of plastic carrier bags found on UK
beaches in surveys carried out by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has
dropped by almost half between 2015 and 2016. This is the lowest number reported
in over a decade, and fantastic news for marine wildlife.
The figures are published in the MCS Great British Beach Clean 2016 report,
based on surveys carried out in September 2016. In 2015 there were, on average,
11 plastic bags per 100 metres of coastline cleaned but in 2016 there were just
under 7; that's a decrease of almost 40% and the lowest number in the last 10
The charity began calling for action on single use carrier bags in shops back in
2008 and was instrumental in getting a levy introduced in Wales in 2011,
Northern Ireland in 2013, Scotland in 2014 and England in October 2015.
"In the last decade, our Great British Beach Clean volunteers have found
an average of ten single use carrier bags for every 100 metres of coastline
cleaned. This year, for the first time since the charges were introduced, we've
seen a significant drop in the number and that can only be as a result of the 5p
charge which is now in place in all the home nations. It vindicates the charge,
which we predicted would be good news for the marine environment. Thanks to our
thousands of fantastic volunteers who collect beach litter data, we can now see
the impact these charges have had." says Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch
Beaches in England and Northern Ireland saw the biggest drop in the number of
plastic bags found during the September clean up; over compared with 2015.
In Wales, where the charge has been in place for 5 years, the number; just
under 4 bags for every 100 metres cleaned; is significantly lower than any
other year since 2011. In Scotland, volunteers found, on average, one bag fewer
over the same distance this year compared with last year. MCS says overall the
trend is down and that can only be good news for visitors and wildlife.
MCS says there has been a drop of almost 4% in the number of litter items found
on UK beaches between 2015 and 2016; but with 268,384 individual items of
litter collected, at 364 events, by just under 6,000 volunteers, there's very
little to be cheerful about when it comes to the sheer quantity of litter on our
Beaches in Scotland saw a decrease of 18% in overall litter levels, rubbish in
the North East dropped by 14% and in the Channel Islands by 10%. But there were
increases in the amount of beach litter in the North West (24%), Wales and the
South West (15%) and in Northern Ireland (9%).
Data collected by Great British Beach Clean volunteers also showed a rise of
over 4% in the quantity of drinks containers found on the UK's beaches;
including plastic bottles, bottle tops and aluminium cans. And there was an
astonishing rise in the amount of balloon related litter found on UK beaches; a
53.5% increase on 2015. The charity says it's taking its:- 'Don't
campaign to a local level to persuade more Councils to ban the release of both
balloons and sky lanterns on their land.
Turtles mistake plastic bags and balloons for their jellyfish prey, and the
items can block their digestive systems leading to death from starvation. It has
recently been shown that some species of seabirds are particularly attracted by
the scent of this plastic junk 'food'.
The charity says the England litter strategy, currently being drafted by Defra,
and strategies elsewhere across the UK, must include specific actions to tackle
the problems highlighted by the surveys.
MCS' beach cleaning work is supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery,
enabling teams of volunteers to clean up huge swathes of our beaches.