MCS declares war on ocean plastic plague

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) annual Beachwatch litter survey and clean-up takes place over the weekend of 15th-16th September 2007. Over 4,000 volunteers are expected to take part at 364 beaches in the UK’s biggest survey of its kind. The findings of Beachwatch 2007 will be instrumental in the continuing MCS campaign against plastic litter.

Of all the hazardous materials littering our seas today, plastic poses the greatest threat – it causes death and injury to hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine species every year through ingestion (swallowing) and entanglement. Items of particular danger to marine wildlife include plastic bags, drink can yokes and fishing nets.

Over the past 14 years, plastic litter has consistently accounted for well over 50% of all litter found on beaches during MCS Beachwatch surveys, and the United Nations Environment Programme recently estimated that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter per square mile of the world’s oceans!

Emma Snowden MCS Litter Projects Officer said, “It’s not too late to take part, and we need the public’s help to survey more beaches to tackle the relentless tide of litter threatening our beaches and wildlife! This is your chance to get involved with the biggest litter clean-up and survey of beaches all around the UK.” Emma continued, “The information collected will help MCS tackle the sources of litter and campaign to reduce the most common items ending up on our beaches and killing wildlife”.  

Over 4,200 volunteers took part during last year’s MCS Beachwatch 2006 weekend, cleaning and surveying over 350 beaches and collecting over 3,000 bags of litter – a clear sign that beach litter is a major issue and is important to the UK public. The survey recorded an average of 1,989 items per kilometre on UK beaches, which equates to nearly two items for every metre stretch of beach!
Adopt-a-Beach and Beachwatch are supported by The Crown Estate. Dr Carolyn Heeps, Head of Policy and Sustainable Development for the Marine Estate added: “We continue to support Beachwatch because it demonstrates that just a few hours of volunteer action, over one weekend, can make a real difference to our understanding of the threats to marine wildlife from litter”

Beachwatch is the flagship event of the Marine Conservation Society’s Adopt-a-Beach project. The results from Beachwatch are published each spring and used by MCS to campaign against the sources of beach litter at local, national and international levels. The data collected by Beachwatch volunteers contributes to a worldwide project, the International Coastal Clean-up, which takes place in over 80 countries worldwide. MCS is urging the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution to proceed with the proposed investigation into the effects of plastic on the marine environment. The Marine Conservation Society also works with the Project AWARE Foundation (International) to organise underwater clean-up events.

To see a list of beaches taking part in Beachwatch 2007 log onto and click on the “Beachwatch” button (left hand side of page). To register as an organiser or a volunteer, register online at: or call the MCS litter team on 01989 567807.

MCS staff will be organising their own beach cleans at:
Cramond, Edinburgh, Scotland – Saturday 15th September, 10am, meet at the start of Cramond Causeway
Contact Calum Duncan for more details: [email protected] – 0131 226 6360

Sand Bay, Somerset, England – Sunday 16th September, 11am, meet at Car park off Sand Road
Contact Sue Kinsey for more details: [email protected] – 01989 561586

Langland Bay, Swansea, Wales – Saturday 15th September, 10am, meet at the car park, Langland
Contact: Gill Bell for more details: 01989 567807