Over 8,000 plastic bottles were found on UK beaches during just one weekend, according to the latest beach litter figures from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
On average, 99 bottles were picked up along every kilometre cleaned at 340 beaches from Orkney to the Channel Islands during the MCS Great British Beach Clean last September.
It’s estimated that plastic bottles could take up to 500 years to break down once in our seas.
The charity’s report, also reveals a shocking 34% rise in beach litter overall between 2014 and 2015, a record breaking number of volunteers taking part – just over 6,000, and the largest amount of litter found per kilometre – a staggering 3,298 pieces.
MCS’ beachcleaning work is supported by players of the Peoples Postcode Lottery, enabling teams of volunteers to clean up huge swathes of the beaches, and carefully record the litter they collect from a 100 metre stretch during each clean. This allows MCS to build up a picture of the state of our beaches by comparing those 100metre litter levels year on year.
There was a big percentage rise in most drinks containers, found on beaches between 2014 and 2015 – plastic drinks bottles increased by over 43%, metal drinks cans by almost 29%, and - drinks container caps and lids were up by over 41%. Only glass bottles went down and that was only by less than 1%.
The figures highlight an issue that UK and devolved governments are now being asked to consider – deposit return systems.
In recent years plastic bottles have become a lifestyle accessory. As the need to keep hydrated has been acknowledged as one of the keys to good health, more and more of us are buying bottles of water on the go, resulting in more needing to be binned. But is there a better way of ensuring they don’t reach our beaches?
Deposit Return Systems (DRS) are nothing new. Lots of people will remember taking pop bottles back to the shop and up until last year the makers of Irn-Bru were returning 30p on glass bottles.
Currently DRS schemes run successfully in Germany, Denmark, and some states in Australia and the USA.
Studies have shown that a scheme can reduce the amount of littered drink containers, lead to more recycling and contribute to the circular economy – where resources are used again and again to extract maximum value.
The schemes put a surcharge on drinks containers and when they’re returned – avoiding pollution – the surcharge is refunded.
MCS says the introduction of DRS on all single use drinks containers – plastic, aluminium and glass - will see a massive increase in recycling and a change in people’s behaviour from simply throwing items away.
Deposit Return Systems give value to items often regarded as having zero worth and so are disposed of irresponsibly.