Scottish Beach Litter Increase 6% In A Year, MCS Report Reveals

Following its annual Great British Beach Clean and subsequent litter survey, The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has revealed that beach litter rose by 6% in 2017. With food and drinks litter accounting for up to 20% of all rubbish found on beaches, MCS is now appealing to Scottish Government, and others in UK, for levies on “disposables”.

It found that beach litter in Scotland rose by 6% in 2017 compared with 2016 and the country had the fourth highest litter density for a third year in a row. 1,588 volunteers collected a total of 57,961 litter items from 111 beaches – that’s an average of 490 pieces of litter from every 100 metres cleaned.

Litter classed by MCS as ‘on the go’ items made up 17% of all litter found on Scottish beaches and 64% of all litter that comes from the public. 83 pieces of ‘on the go ‘ litter (which it classes as drinks cups, plastic cutlery, foil wrappers, straws, sandwich packets, lolly sticks, plastic bottles, drinks cans, glass bottles, plastic cups, lids and stirrers) were found on average per 100m of beaches cleaned and surveyed.

MCS therefore 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 and at each home nation level since environmental levies are a devolved matter.

Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland Conservation Officer, says: “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, and 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.”

“We Need To Change Our Ways” – ZWS

Zero Waste Scotland’s Iain Gulland added his voice to the debate, explaining: “It’s awful that our beautiful beaches are being spoiled by litter, so we welcome the hard work of Marine Conservation Society volunteers in helping to expose the shocking extent of the problem. We know that most marine litter starts on land – it’s things that are carelessly discarded that then get into water courses, polluting our rivers and seas. So we need to urgently change our ways.

“That’s why the Scottish Government’s plan to introduce a deposit return system for drinks containers, building on the successful carrier bag charge, as well as investigating wider measures to tackle a throwaway society are so vital.

“Our vision is for a circular economy, where we eliminate waste by making things last. Re-usable alternatives to single-use items already exist, whether for bags, bottles, cups, straws, or food packaging, so we can all make a difference today by starting to say ‘no’ to single use.”



MCS’s appeal is detailed at

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