South's Beaches Have Most Rubbish

The south coast's beaches are the untidiest in England, according to a new report by the Marine Conservation Society.

The south west had the most litter recorded, followed by the south east.

The MCS says anti-litter campaigns are now falling on deaf ears. Plastic bits and pieces made up almost 65% of all the litter found on British beaches during a single weekend last September according to their annual Beachwatch Big Weekend Report published today.

The amount of plastic on our beaches in 2012 rose by 3% compared to the year before. Even more concerning is the 100% rise in the number of cigarette stubs found on beaches between 2011 and 2012 with general smoking litter, including lighters and packets, increasing by 90%.

The latest figures also reveal a rise in the number of sweet and lolly wrappers on UK beaches where volunteer cleaners also found over 75 plastic drinks bottles for every kilometre they surveyed.

Within England the greatest density of litter was recorded - as in previous years - in the South West, where 3,162 items/km was recorded, followed by the South East (1,811/km), North East (1,437/km) and North West (1,009/km) respectively.

All regions have increased in levels from 2011, with the exception of the North West where average levels have decreased by over 60%. (2,730 items/km in 2011 compared to 1,009 items/km in 2012)

MCS says the amount of rubbish like sweet wrappers and plastic bottles seems to indicate that decades of various anti-litter campaigns now need to be re-invigorated for a new generation.

Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch Officer, says the continued rise in beach litter is worrying, but the fact that much of it is plastic and unlikely to break down is even more concerning:

"As we continue to embrace the concept of a throwaway society it?s no surprise that plastic dominates the litter we find. Over the last few years we have seen a drop in the number of cigarette butts we?ve found on our beaches but this year that trend has totally reversed. That could be a result of more people smoking outside following the ban on smoking in public places. It?s likely that more people are dropping butts outside rather than disposing of them in ashtrays."

Figures from the Beachwatch Big Weekend 2012, reveal the amount of litter items per kilometre has risen sharply and is at its highest since 2008. Just over 2,000 pieces of litter were found per kilometre compared to 1,741 pieces the year before. 3,366 volunteers took to the UK beaches between the 14th and 17th of September last year and surveyed almost 240 beaches covering just over 90 kilometres. They collected 181,978 items of rubbish and filled almost 1,800 rubbish bags.

Beachwatch is part of the International Coastal Clean-up which takes place in 180 countries and regions worldwide over the same weekend every September. MCS Beachwatch is the only UK clean-up to feed data directly into this global event.

Lauren Eyles said:

"Despite last summer being seen as a wash out by many with heavy rain in many places, it appears those people that did visit our beaches left behind a lot of personal litter - sweet wrappers, ice cream wrappers and plastic drinks bottles failed to find their way into rubbish bins and ended up being dropped and left behind. This year's figures point to people becoming less bothered about littering."

When compared to MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend 2011 average litter densities increased in all countries.