Rubbish on our beaches up 10 per cent to worst ever levels, prompting calls for a ‘litter tax’

Litter on Britain’s beaches is up 10 per cent in just one year to its worst ever levels, prompting calls for a tax on waste.

More than 700 bits or rubbish were found, on average, on every 100 metres cleaned as conservationists accused many people of treating our shores as a “big dustbin.”

A shock report shows that litter levels recorded in an annual survey were at record levels, with food and drink waste accounting for one in five pieces of litter (20 per cent) found on our beaches.

Now a levy on disposables is needed to stop the dumping, according to Britain’s leading marine charity.

The annual Great British Beach Clean, organised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), is the nation’s largest beach clean up and survey.

All items found are recorded according to an internationally agreed method.

This year’s event involved 6,944 volunteer beach cleaners picking up record amounts of litter from 339 beaches – on average, a staggering 718 bits of rubbish from every 100 metres cleaned.

Litter classed by the MCS as ‘on the go’ items made up 20 per cent of all litter found, and 63 per cent of all litter that comes from the public.


Litter on Britain’s beaches is up 10 per cent in just one year to its worst ever levels, prompting calls for a tax on waste. 

An average of 138 pieces of ‘on the go ‘ litter were found per 100 metres of beaches cleaned and surveye in September.

The charity categorises drinks cups, plastic cutlery, foil wrappers, straws, sandwich packets, lolly sticks, plastic bottles, drinks cans, glass bottles, plastic cups, lids and stirrers as ‘on the go’.

The appalling figures highlight our bad habits when it comes to littering, according to the MCS.

The charity says it’s time for a levy on single-use items that are handed over, free of charge, in their millions when we’re eating and drinking out and about.

It says the levy should be imposed on such items as straws, cups, lids, stirrers and cutlery.

Lizzie Prior, MCS Beach and River Clean Project Officer, said: “The 5p single-use carrier bag charge has made a massive difference to the number of plastic bags entering our seas.

“If a levy was placed on single use plastic such as straws, stirrers, cutlery, cups and cup lids, we’re confident that we’d find fewer of these items on our beaches.”

Northern Ireland had the highest litter density for the third year in a row, followed by England, Wales and Scotland.

The annual survey also revealed a 94 per cent rise in the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches in a single year.

MCS has been running a campaign to urge high street retailers to better label products that some people believe can be flushed down the loo.

It’s also preparing to hand in a 10,000 name petition to the wet wipe industry body EDANA asking them to ensure members remove plastic from their flushable products and that flushable wipes comply with UK Water Industry standards.


Litter on Britain’s beaches is up 10 per cent in just one year to its worst ever levels, prompting calls for a tax on waste. 

Sandy Luk, MCS chief executive, said: “Our beach clean evidence shows a shocking rise in the amount of litter this year.

“Our oceans are choking in plastic. We urgently need a levy on single use plastic as a first step.”

The MCS’s beach litter work is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, added “The problem of marine litter is of growing concern and is not only unsightly but pollutes our seas and endangers marine wildlife.

“We are thus pleased to support the Marine Conservation Society’s efforts to get the Government to take action on this issue.”

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