Did you know, that, on average….
… there are two pieces of litter for every footstep you take on a beach. The tide of litter on our beaches appears is on the increase (up 146% since 1994) . Not only can litter be a health hazard to us and off putting to tourists, its estimated that over 100,000 marine animals die every year from entanglement or ingestion of plastics, discarded on our beaches or at sea.
From 2-10 April, National Trust staff and hundreds of volunteers across the south west will be conducting a mass beach clean at 27 of its beaches.
Beach cleaning not only helps to improve the coastal habitat for plants and animals but also to ensure beaches that the Trust cares for are clean and ready for the first visitors of the season.
The Trust routinely looks after 716 miles of the coastline in the south west and estimates it costs around £400 per beach clean.
If the Trust were to stand all the skips it fills with beach rubbish side by side collected in the south west, it would stretch as far as three Jumbo jets parked end to end. If stacked on top of one another it would stand as high as 20 London double-decker buses .
Marine environments are also hugely affected by litter pollution at every level – from tiny microscopic organisms through to the very largest animals such as whales and turtles. Even the most remote beaches are affected by litter blown or brought in on the tide. Litter comes from many sources – the public, fishing activities, sewage pipes and shipping, but it is all preventable.
However, not all beach litter is bad however, driftwood provides very useful habitat for invertebrates.
This is the forth annual National Trust beach clean, which began in 2008, a year in which items such as a sofa, Japanese crisps and medical drip feed bags were discovered. The majority of the litter collected was marine waste but more than 20% came from beach users.
Previous beach cleans have revealed a number of items from the grounding of the Napoli on Branscombe Beach including BMW parts. Parts of an old cooking range probably from old cottages washed away in the early 1900’s were discovered at a beach clean on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall, a scaffold clamp from a WW2 beach defence barrier an unbroken light bulb and a telegraph pole weighing 1 tonne, were some of the other items.
Phil Dyke, National Trust Coast & Marine Advisor based in the south west says: “This is the first major beach clean of the season and certainly one of the largest, hundreds of people give up their time to help us with this process. It’s essential we wait until this time as generally the worst of the winter storms are over and to ensure our beaches are looking their best in time for our Easter’s visitors. “
This annual event has become incredibly popular with local people and with 27 different beach cleans to undertake we could not manage without their support.
Rangers in charge are anticipating that various plastics will form the greatest volume of litter, and these can present some of the greatest hazards to wildlife, both on and offshore. Plastics can be ingested by turtles, seabirds and cetaceans (whales, dolphins etc) and noxious contaminants can also poison wildlife.
All the teams involved will be reporting on the volume of rubbish found on their beaches, and documenting the stranger or more surprising items found.
 Marine Conservation Society has been monitoring the amount of litter on UK beaches through its Beachwatch and Adopt-a-Beach programmes for over 16 years. In that time we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of litter recorded – a 110% increase compared to 1994 figures. The amount of plastic litter in the same period has increased by a staggering 146%
Top ten most unusual beach clean finds;
BMW parts on Branscome Beach, which are remains from the grounding of the Napoli.
Spanish washing up liquid.
Parts of an old cooking range probably from old cottages washed away in the early 1900’s on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall.
A scaffold clamp probably from a WW2 beach defence barrier
An unbroken light bulb
A telegraph pole weighing 1 tonne
A French Medicine Container
A 20 litre oil container
Hot water bottle