SCOTLAND’S beaches are the dirtiest they have ever been with a 10 per cent rise in litter in the past year, leading to calls for a tax on disposable waste such as plastic bottles.
More than 700 bits or rubbish were found, on average, on every 100 metres as conservationists accused many people of treating our shores as a “big dustbin.”
Discarded material which should go in a bin, rather than down the toilet, leapt by 40 per cent in the last 12 months with discoveries of wet wipes rising by a staggering 141 per cent year-on-year.
A new 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.
The Marine Conservation Society, whose volunteers carried out the study, said the findings make it vital that the Scottish Government introduces a levy on disposable products.
This would replicate the success of the 5p levy imposed on plastic bags north of the border three years ago.
In Scotland, beach litter rose by six per cent in 2017 compared with 2016 and the country had the UK’s fourth highest litter density for a third year in a row.
In total, 1,588 volunteers collected a haul of 57,961 litter items from 111 beaches – that’s an average of 490 pieces of litter from every 100 metres cleaned.
Food and drinks litter like cups, cup lids and straws accounted for up to 20 per cent of all rubbish found on beaches.
MCS says the figures highlight our bad habits when it comes to littering.
Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland Conservation Officer, said: “Scotland’s 5p single-use carrier bag charge has made a massive difference to the number of plastic bags entering our seas, combined with similar charges elsewhere in the UK.
“We believe we will see a similar impact on bottles and cans when Scotland’s Deposit Return System is implemented.
“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 Scotland’s beaches.”
The figures from the event, which took place between 15 and 18 September, revealed that 21 per cent of all Scottish beach litter is from bathrooms, compared to just eight per cent in the rest of the UK.
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.”
MCS has been running a campaign to urge high street retailers to better label products that some people believe can be flushed down the toilet.
It is 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.