The world is more aware of plastic waste than ever before and that means there's greater awareness on the state of beaches across the south west and UK. For nearly thirty years, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the Great British Beach Clean (GBBC) have invited thousands of people to take part in one of the largest citizen science activities on the British coast.
What is the Great British Beach Clean?
The Great British Beach Clean is a citizen science event taking place between 16 and 25 September 2022. Hundreds of beach cleans take place up and down the UK, and in doing so means that thousands of people survey and create data on the waste that washes up on UK beaches. In 2021, 32% of beach cleans found face masks and PPE – part of an average of 385 items of litter found in every 100m of British beach. In positive news, the average litter recorded per 100 metres is dropping year-on-year across the UK compared to averages of 425 in 2020, and 558 in 2019.
The data is used to influence government policy, and has been instrumental in developing government policy - including the introduction of the plastic bag charge, banning microplastics in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, and supporting a tax on single-use plastic items.
Cleaning our beaches has never been more important, and in particular removing harmful plastic that lasts for hundreds of years, potentially harming generation after generation of marine life. With everything from American sonar equipment to Russian bug sprays and picnics from the 1980s appearing as part of rubbish on beaches, the impact of waste plastics can't be overestimated.
How can you help?
The easiest way to take part is to join in one of your local events. Alternatively you can organise your own – the MSC offer step-by-step guides to a successful beach clean event. Can't make it to an event? Undertake a mini beach clean when you next head to the coast - every item of litter removed makes our beaches cleaner and more pleasant for everyone.
If you can’t make it to the coast, there’s always the Source to Sea Litter Quest. Much of the litter in parks and on streets ends up in the ocean, and taking part in a clean in your local park can help keep our beaches clean for everyone – including the next time you visit!
What you'll need
You'll be spending a while outside, so stout shoes and comfortable clothes are a must. Many events will provide tools and gloves, but it always helps to provide your own if you can! Gardening gloves are a staple, and a litter-picker saves you bending down regularly. Finally, a bucket is very useful for holding litter until you get to a bag - and saves on single-use plastics too.
Getting to your local GBBC Event
Many of the GBBC events are easy to get to on public transport, making the whole day a sustainable one. With our trains serving most of the south coast between Portsmouth and Exeter, it's easy to find a beach clean close to you.