The Great British Beach Clean 2017 in Hampshire
- Credit: Archant
The UK’s biggest beach clean and litter survey returns this month. Natalie French reports on local events and how we’re finally scrubbing out microbeads
Last year’s Great British Beach Clean saw almost 6,000 volunteers taking to 364 UK beaches to pick up and record litter they found. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says the results revealed a mixed picture. More than 268,000 pieces were collected, but the number of plastic bags found almost halved in a year. The report also showed an astonishing rise in balloon-related litter, over 50 per cent up on 2015. There was also a four per cent rise in drinks containers, bottle caps and lids.
This year the MCS has joined with Waitrose to fight the rising tide of plastic litter on our beaches with the biggest ever beach and river clean. The supermarket is donating £500,000 from its carrier bag fund to MCS, which plans to organise around 1000 beach and river cleans in 2017/18, starting with The Great British Beach Clean from September 15-18.
At the time of writing, Hampshire had six events: Budd’s Farm, Havant; Eastney South; Weston Shore, Southampton; Hurst Spit, Lymington; Lee-on-the-Solent and Portchester Foreshore. The MCS encourages people to organise their own events if there isn’t one in their area that they can register for online.
This year, for the first time, many of the plastics removed will be sorted and recycled. Rigid plastic and cigarette stubs will be turned into shampoo bottles and advertising boards. One other type of plastic that has spread over the planet is microplastic, with studies suggesting there are 300 billion microbeads in the Arctic Ocean alone. Evidence shows that these tiny plastic particles present a serious risk to marine life and human health, prompting the Government to confirm that legislation will be introduced this year to ban the sale and manufacture of microbeads. Greenpeace UK hailed it as ‘the strongest ban on microbeads in the world to date’.
Exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste are among ‘rinse off’ products affected, whilst ‘leave-on’ products such as sunscreen and make up won’t be hit. The MCS welcomed the news, but said microbeads should be banned from any product that was likely to end up being flushed down the drain.
Laura Foster, MCS Head of Pollution said: “Plastic in the oceans are not biodegradable. We know that plastic has a negative impact on marine life and therefore we must act now. Unfortunately, there is no realistic way to remove the billions of microplastics that have entered our oceans. That’s why it is important to reduce the amount as soon as possible.”
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Scientists at the University of Bath have developed biodegradable cellulose microbeads that could replace plastic, but it is likely to be some years before it makes it into our bathroom products. And Foster is cautious: “Any product developed needs to be tested to ensure that it is truly biodegradable within the marine environment.”
In the meantime, you can help by checking your cosmetic and cleansing product labels to ensure they are microplastic free. Opt for natural, biodegradable, alternatives such as apricot kernels, jojoba beads, salt and ground nutshells. Whether you take to the beach with a litter picker, or start the battle in your bathroom, by binning any products containing microbeads we are finally facing up to the enormity of the problem.
What are microbeads?
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic, usually less than 5mm in diameter, added to products including toothpaste, facewash, shower gels and abrasive cleaners. They give them their gritty texture, often for exfoliating purposes. Greenpeace says they are most frequently made of polyethylene but other petrochemical plastics are used. Small enough to go down the plughole, up to 100,000 microbeads can be washed away with one application of shower gel, passing filtration systems and ending up in the sea.
Research is continuing to find more examples of plastic in sea life, with a Greenpeace report stating that over 663 species of marine wildlife are affected. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that 90 per cent of birds have plastics in their stomachs too.
Microbeads also end up in humans through toothpaste or seafood that has ingested microplastics and the toxins that come with them. A single plastic particle can absorb up to 1,000,000 times more toxic chemicals than the water around it.
Volunteer for beach clean
The MCS needs volunteers to tackle litter and plastic on our shores at The Great British Beach Clean from September 15-18, when thousands will take to UK beaches to clean up and record rubbish they find.
Events in Hampshire
Eastney South, Southsea
• Meet: On the beach by Coffee Cup café, Southsea Esplanade, PO4 9GE
• When: 11am-1.15pm Friday, September 15
Budds Farm, Havant
• Meet: South (shore) end of Southmoor Lane
• When: 9.30am-noon, Saturday, September 16
Hurst Spit near Hurst Castle, Milford-on-Sea
• Meet: Spit side of Cut Bridge
• When: 10.30-11.30am, Saturday, September 16
• Note: The 100m survey is completed by the castle so be prepared to walk to castle to complete the beach clean.
• Meet: On the foreshore at the bottom of Wicor Mill Lane.
• When: 11.00am-12.30pm, Saturday, September 16
Weston Shore, Southampton
• Meet: Weston Shore South Car park
• When: 11.00am-1.00pm, Saturday September 16
Lee-on-the-Solent, Osborne Road, Gosport
• Meet: On the beach, outside Leon’s Bistro, PO13 9LW
• When: 2.00-3.00pm, Saturday, September 16
For information or to register as a volunteer visit: mcsuk.org/beachwatch