Volunteers wanted for annual clean-up of South Shields beach

A beach clean at Marsden Bay.
A beach clean at Marsden Bay.

A leading marine charity is appealing for volunteers to help clean up a South Tyneside beach as part of its 25th anniversary Great British Beach Clean event.

The initiative not only spruces up hundreds of beaches, but volunteers also record the litter they find, and it’s this aspect that has really helped the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) change policy and behaviours over the last quarter of a century.

The 5p carrier bag charge, a ban on microbeads in wash-off products, consultations on a plastic tax and deposit return schemes, reduction in the use of plastic straws and the banning of lantern and balloon releases – all have come about following compelling evidence gathered over decades of MCS beach cleans.

This year’s event takes place from September 14 to 17 and in South Tyneside, volunteers will be at Marsden Bay to show their support.

The 2017 Great British Beach Clean saw almost 7,000 volunteer beach cleaners pick up record amounts of litter from 339 UK beaches – a staggering 718 bits of rubbish from every 100 metres cleaned. That was a 10% rise in the amount of beach litter picked up during the 2016 event.

For the second year running, the Great British Beach Clean in England is being sponsored by Waitrose, who are supporting MCS’ year round beach and river clean programme.

Beach litter has steadily risen over the 24 years since MCS began recording it. In 2017, ‘on the go’ items made up 20% of all litter found on the UK’s beaches

To sign up to a clean a beach near you, go to www.mcsuk.org/greatbritishbeachclean or call 01989 566017.

MCS categorises cardboard 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 charity says the figures highlight the nation’s lazy habits when it comes to littering.

The amount of litter suggests we’re treating the outdoors as a big dustbin, happy to dump at will rather than keep hold of our litter until we find a bin.

“Taking part in the Great British Beach Clean really can make a difference. In previous years when we’ve highlighted increases in dog poo bags and sewage related debris found on beaches, we’ve seen drops in numbers subsequently, said Lizzie Prior, MCS beach and river clean project officer.

Due to the massive increase in wet wipes we found between 2013 and 2015 we were able to launch our ‘Wet Wipes Turn Nasty’ campaign which has resulted in improvements in labelling, removal of plastic from ‘flushable’ wet wipes in retailers’ own brands, and shown retailers the need for their flushable wipes to pass water industry standards.”

Cleaning and surveying a beach only takes a couple of hours at most. Each beach has a co-ordinator, who explains how to fill in a simple data form, and then it’s just a case of grabbing a litter picker and a bin bag and filling it up with rubbish!

If you can’t find a beach clean near you, you can organise one, too.

“Beach litter is a serious environmental problem,” added Lizzie Prior.

“But the solution is in our hands. We want the 25th Great British Beach Clean weekend to be the biggest ever. The BBC’s Blue Planet II has given the UK public a real understanding of the pollution crisis facing our oceans and people really want to make a difference. The more volunteers we have, the better it’ll be for our seas.”

Tor Harris, head of responsible sourcing and sustainability at Waitrose, said: “Our coast is important to all of us so the Great British Beach Clean is a key opportunity to reduce pollution, especially from plastics.

“We’re really happy to support such a fantastic event and this builds on our environmental commitment to ensure that all our packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025.

“We’d love for our customers and partners (employees) to sign up and organise local beach cleans to improve them for wildlife and all of us.”

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery also support the Marine Conservation Society beach litter programme.