#Binit4beaches this August Bank Holiday – and beyond

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 22 August 2018

Along with the Environment Agency, Keep Britain Tidy and Water UK, MCS is part of a collaboration of groups working to ensure our seas are kept clean. As the August Bank Holiday approaches, which often sees a mass exodus to the coast before the year hurtles towards autumn, what can we all do to make sure our beaches aren’t swamped with litter? MCS PR Manager, Clare Fischer, looks at how we can take a trip to the beach and leave only our footprints behind.

Norfolk beach huts

It’s estimated that almost six million Brits will take a holiday in England around the August Bank holiday break, and a good proportion of those will head to the coast. And why wouldn’t they? Not only have we got stunning coastlines around the UK, the water’s not bad either.

92% of the England’s bathing waters are rated as good or excellent for water quality. That’s 380 beaches from which to take a nice safe dip. But although the water may be lovely, very often it’s the getting to the sea that’s a bit of a minefield. At the height of the summer you may find yourself having to carefully pick your way through plastic bottles and bags, lolly and cottonbud sticks, food containers and cutlery. The British public love the beach but they leave a lot of litter.

As an organisation, MCS has worked tirelessly to ensure we have seas safe for bathers, and compared to the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s - the 2010s see our seas mostly reaching ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ water quality standards. However, litter on our beaches continues to rise year on year, and without a doubt, there’ll be yet another peak over the August Bank Holiday.

If we’re to take full advantage of seas with ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ water quality standards, we need to make sure our beaches are beautiful too. And although sewage run off from farm land and any overflowing sewer pipes after bad weather are largely out of the hands of an individual, our personal beach behaviour can make a massive difference to our seas and coastline.

Although there’s no formal classification system for how littered a beach is in the UK, our annual Great British Beach Clean provides a snapshot of the state of the country’s beaches following a weekend of nationwide beach cleans.

Beach Litter_FB

In 2017 our volunteer beach cleaners picked up so much ‘on-the-go’ litter, it’s quite clear to us that our fast paced, throwaway lifestyles of convenience and quickness are bad news for beaches. Food and drinks litter accounted for up to 20% of all the rubbish we found on beaches we cleaned and surveyed. These figures highlight our bad habits when it comes to littering. We’re treating the outdoors as a big dustbin, happy to dump at will rather than keep hold of our litter until we find a bin. And when we’re on the beach, well, who cares if we bury a few food containers or nappy sacks? The sea’ll take them. Seriously guys? You have no idea.

So just for starters, here’s what to do to make sure you have a plastic-free beach trip.

Take your own food in re-usable containers

I know it’s plastic but you’re re-using them! It’s cheaper, creates no litter and you can graze all day from your beach rug rather than keep heading off in search of some scran.

Don’t wrap sandwiches in cling film

Grab some wax food wraps from our shop - made with 100% cotton fabric, plant waxes, tree resins and plant oils these food wraps mould and grip with the warmth of your hands to form a water repellant seal.

Take your reusable water bottles and coffee cups

If you do this generally –don’t make the beach any different. Fill up before you get on the sand.

Carry your stuff in big cotton bag or heavy duty backpack

Keep your hands free for carrying that reusable coffee cup full of latte. Don’t take a random plastic bag anywhere near the beach. It’ll float away into the sea and very probably strangle a turtle further down the line – or at the very least break down into smaller bits which will then be eaten by sea life at the bottom the food chain.

Inflatable lilos?

Frankly I wouldn’t bother. They seem like a good idea on the way to the beach but then they end up getting punctured and left behind because how do you fit a 3ft long crocodile into a car already full of toddlers? But if you do love a lilo…deflate and take it home with you, likewise the plastic bucket and spade… very handy for doing little jobs in the garden.

Whatever else you do this August Bank Holiday – don’t leave your rubbish on the beach.

So a plastic free beach excursion isn’t out of the question, but we can make sure litter doesn’t end up on our beaches by changing our habits at home too… miles from the nearest beach.

Litter dropped on the street will blow about and could end up in the nearest water course, brook, stream or river. They all head to the sea and so a crisp packet dropped in Birmingham could end up on the beach in Burnham-on-Sea. Change your habits where it really matters. Like in the bathroom.

Lots of us love a wet wipe. For sticky fingers and dirty bums, they are a parents’ dream.

Wet Wipe on Sand

“My wet wipe says flushable on it?”

Unfortunately, not everything does what it says on the packet. Water companies have a standard for what can be flushed safely down the toilet and wet wipes labelled as ‘flushable’ aren’t passing it, because they don’t break down quick enough once they’ve been flushed.

Over the last couple of years MCS, water companies and other organisations have been working together to improve the labelling on wet wipes and ensure that everyone knows that all wet wipes should be disposed of in the bin. So, our advice - #binit4beaches in your home and help reduce wet wipes reaching our rivers, seas and beaches by finding a reusable alternative.

If you’re already doing your bit to reduce your plastic footprint, why not go the extra mile and join the Great British Beach Clean this September. You’ll find yourself among likeminded individuals who love the coast and want to do their bit to make it pollution free.

Croyde beachclean volunteers

MCS ran its fourth Plastic Challenge during July, when thousands of people tried to go for the whole month without single-use plastic. Now we’re not saying this is an easy thing to do – far from it. It’s a flipping struggle. Mainly because we rely so much on single-use plastic we don’t actually realise we’re using it all, until you try to stop it.

You can get some great tips on giving up the plastic habit in the MCS book – How To Live Plastic Free- available to buy from our online shop.

Why not try a mini Bank Holiday Challenge and see if you can go plastic-free during the last public holiday before Christmas? Ah Christmas… that’s whole new ball game when it comes to plastic!

Have a happy August Bank Holiday!

If you’d like to get help protect the UK’s beaches why not join the Great British Beach Clean this September?