Scots shame the English and Welsh with plans to clean up dirty beaches

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) today criticises as ‘shameful’ Whitehall proposals to tackle the thousands of tonnes of waste littering beaches in England and Wales, but welcomes plans from the Scottish Government as a great hope for the future. Proposals from both Governments, due to become law in six weeks time, differ greatly in their vision, ambition, and likelihood of achieving a reduction in UK beach pollution.

Last week, both the UK and Scottish Governments closed their consultations on introducing the revised European Bathing Water Directive, which is due to become UK law on March 24th. Each Government has put forward its vision of how it intends to combat pollution on beaches and reduce the associated public health risks.

The Scottish Government has proposed comprehensive measures to tackle plastic, tar, glass, rubber or any other waste on beaches, and funding for community based clean-up schemes. MCS Adopt-A-Beach and Beachwatch programmes have been highlighted prominently throughout the consultation.

Thomas Bell, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, said: “The Scottish Government states that waste on beaches is not only unsightly but poses public health risks ranging from laceration by broken glass to skin conditions caused by toxic waste containers. The Marine Conservation Society knows that thousands of seabirds and marine animals die each year as a result of contact with hazardous waste, and items of particular danger include plastic bags, drink can yokes and fishing nets”.

By contrast, the Government in Whitehall is adopting just a minimum approach, with periodic visual inspections of English and Welsh beaches, unspecified ‘management measures’ if waste debris reaches ‘abnormal’ levels, and more public information. Waste, including litter, on Britain’s beaches has shot up 80% in ten years according to the MCS Beachwatch report.

Thomas Bell continues, ‘Frankly, we think the UK Government’s proposals to tackle waste on beaches in England and Wales are shameful. The leadership to clean up the British coastline is clearly coming from Scotland. ‘

Anyone wishing to help clean up Britain’s beaches, can take part in the Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch litter survey and clean up on September 20th and 21st 2008. Tel: 01989 567 807 or email  beachwatch@mcsuk.org