UK beach litter levels recorded in surveys in 2017 were 10% higher than in 2016 – with food and drinks litter accounting for up to 20% of all rubbish found on the shoreline.
The new figures were released by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) as it launched a campaign to bring in a levy on disposable products.
The MCS has urged the Government to act over the growing problem by installing a new charge on these ‘throw away’ items.
The charity categorises drinks 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’ items.
The Great British Beach Clean is the UK’s largest and most influential beach clean up and survey.
All items found are recorded according to an internationally agreed methodology.
The 2017 event saw 6,944 volunteer beach cleaners pick up record amounts of litter from 339 UK beaches – on average, a staggering 718 items of rubbish from every 100 metres cleaned. MCS said the figures highlight the public’s bad habits when it comes to littering.
The charity said it’s time for a levy on single-use items that are handed over, free of charge, in their millions when we’re eating and drinking out and about. It believes the levy should be imposed on such items as straws, cups, lids, stirrers and cutlery.
Lizzie Prior, MCS Beach and River Clean Project Officer, said: “The 5p single-use carrier bag charge has made a massive difference to the number of plastic bags entering our seas. If a levy was placed on single use plastic such as straws, stirrers, cutlery, cups and cup lids, we’re confident that we’d find fewer of these items on our beaches.”
MCS CEO Sandy Luk said: “Our beach clean evidence shows a shocking rise in the amount of litter. Our oceans are choking in plastic.
“We urgently need a levy on single use plastic as a first step.” Elsewhere, data from the Great British Beach Clean revealed a 94% rise in the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches in a single year.