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Marine Science



Great British Beach Clean to be held in September. This September during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, the Marine Conservation Society will run its annual Great British Beach Clean for a week of citizen science from 18 – 25th September 2020, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The charity needs more organisers than ever to sign up and adopt a stretch of Scottish beach to clean and survey.

The Great British Beach Clean is more than just litter picking – people become citizen scientists and carry out a litter survey, recording what they find on the beaches to help show a national and international picture of the most common forms of litter. The Marine Conservation Society uses this data to call for policy change, tackling ocean pollution at its source.

During last year’s Great British Beach Clean weekend, citizen scientists across Scotland collected nearly 500 litter items per 100m of beach, with 2,900 volunteers taking part.

Like many events, this year the Great British Beach Clean looks a little different. Rather than encouraging volunteers to find a beach clean happening near them, the Marine Conservation Society is calling on individuals to adopt a 100m stretch of beach and organise their own beach cleans, with smaller groups of friends, family and ‘bubbles’, in line with Government guidance. This year the charity is hoping more organisers than ever before will take ownership of their local beaches to support the project and collect all important data.

The charity has made becoming an organiser, adopting a beach and doing the survey as easy as possible, with plenty of resources available on the Marine Conservation Society website and guidance from the charity’s Beachwatch team.

Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Officer at the Marine Conservation Society says:

“As more of us are looking to stay local this summer and head to the UK’s beaches, it’s even more important that we all take ownership of keeping them beautiful for everyone. We’d love to see more people than ever before signing up to organise their own beach clean. The more organisers we have, the more beach cleans we can run throughout the week and the more data we’ll have to push for policy which will reduce ocean pollution in the future.”

Data collected by Marine Conservation Society citizen scientists from 26 years of the nationwide Great British Beach Clean has been instrumental in the introduction of the 5p single-use carrier bag charge, the recent ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds and the upcoming Scottish Deposit Return Scheme, alongside much more.

This year, the charity hopes to collect data on personal protective equipment including gloves and masks to get a more accurate picture of the impact these newly commonplace items are having on the environment.

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society, has been cleaning and surveying Cramond beach in Edinburgh since 2000:

“As lockdown gradually eases in Scotland, we have all seen the images of littered public spaces, including parks and beaches. A renewed reliance on single-use plastic simply cannot be part of the ‘new normal’. The impact of single-use plastics on our coasts and waters is well-documented, which is why we are asking the Scottish Government to deliver an ambitious environmental recovery plan. A world-leading Circular Economy Bill and implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive are the next steps toward litter-free parks, beaches and seas that must be taken. Nothing short of systemic, transformative change will curb the litter polluting our ocean.”

Everyone can play their part in the Great British Beach Clean this September, even when far from the coast. 80% of the pollution on beaches around the UK is from litter which has travelled from our towns, parks and rivers. Illustrating the impact of inland litter on beach pollution, the Marine Conservation Society’s Source to Sea Litter Quest highlights the most common beach litter and asks volunteers to spot them (and pick them up!) in their local area. The plastic bottles, wet wipes and face masks spotted in the UK’s parks and streets will ultimately end up on the beach; taking part in the charity’s Source to Sea Litter Quest will remove these potential polluters and show how important it is to keep our inland spaces clear, for the sake of the ocean.