Environment Ministers join volunteers in UK's biggest beach clean up

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is delighted to announce that the Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies, MP and the Shadow Environment Secretary Nick Herbert MP will be taking part in the Beachwatch Big Weekend on the 19th September.

The MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend is the biggest survey and clean up of litter on beaches in the UK with thousands of people taking part at over 400 beaches this year. The data is used to inform the environmental status of our seas and determine where action to tackle litter is needed.

Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies will be available for comment at Ogmore beach on Saturday, and the Defra press office can be contacted for a quote to the media.

Shadow Environment Secretary Nick Herbert said:
“The growing amount of litter on our beaches is simply appalling.  It’s unpleasant for beach-goers and it’s harmful to wildlife.  I’m delighted to be joining thousands of volunteers on the Beachwatch Big Weekend who feel equally strongly that we need to draw attention to this thoughtless pollution of shores.”

The tide of litter washing up on our shores is not just unpleasant to look at, it can harm and even kill some of our best-loved marine wildlife. Over 170 species of marine wildlife including seabirds, turtles and whales have mistaken marine litter for food resulting in starvation, poisoning and fatal stomach blockages.  Plastic packaging and discarded fishing nets also injure, entangle and drown some of Britain’s favourite marine animals, including seals and dolphins.

Sam Fanshawe MCS Director said, “Thousands of members of the public will join MCS’s Beachwatch Big Weekend to help survey marine litter.  We are delighted that for the first time the Government and Shadow environment ministers are taking part with MCS’ volunteers.  We look forward to working more with Government as they develop their own commitment to further action to deal with the increasing issue of coastal litter.”

Our surveys have recorded a 110% increase in the amount of beach litter compared to 1994.  The four main sources of litter found on UK beaches come from the public, fishing, sanitary waste (particularly cotton bud sticks) and shipping.

Over 5,000 volunteers took part in Beachwatch 2008, cleaning and surveying over 370 beaches and collecting over 385,000 pieces of litter on just one weekend.  Our survey recorded an average of 2,195 items of litter per kilometre on UK beaches, that’s over two items for every metre of beach surveyed!

The thousands of volunteers that take part in Beachwatch every year ensure that the event continues to be the biggest and most influential project in the fight against beach litter in the UK. MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend provides a simple and effective way in which everyone can help tackle the relentless tide of rubbish on our beaches and at sea.

The data collected by MCS Beachwatch volunteers also contributes to a worldwide project, the International Coastal Cleanup, which takes place in over 80 countries worldwide.  MCS is extremely grateful to SeaFrance Dover-Calais Ferries for funding the Beachwatch campaign.