Record numbers clean up in 25th Great British Beach Clean around Welsh coasts

Date posted: 29 November 2018

But in the ‘Year of the Sea’ there’s still far too much plastic on Welsh beaches

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says its Great British Beach Clean, run in partnership with Waitrose, was the biggest mass participation beach clean and survey event in Wales for a decade. The charity says the event, held over four days in September, saw over 1,300 volunteers – over 700 more than last year – cleaning nearly double the number of beaches than in 2017.

Swansea beachclean
© Patrick Joel

The Great British Beach Clean, which took place 14th -17th September 2018, saw volunteers remove close to 500kg of litter from Welsh beaches. In total, just short of 25,000 litter items were picked up along the 5,355 metres of the coastline that was surveyed.

But although the number of volunteers, events and the amount of litter collected has risen in the last three years, this year the average amount of litter collected on every 100 metres cleaned and surveyed decreased in Wales by 22% compared to last year.

Gill Bell, MCS Head of Conservation, Wales says although the Great British Beach Clean in Wales showed just how many more people now want to make a difference to the ocean pollution crisis, there is still a major litter problem around the Welsh coastline: “Whilst it was fantastic to see record numbers of Welsh volunteers, there are still unacceptable amounts of litter, and plastic in particular, on our beaches. 2018 is the Year of the Sea in Wales, so it’s hugely disappointing that our volunteers picked up over 494 kilos of litter – that’s about the same as a grand piano weighs. Before the year is out we need the Welsh Government to commit to doing much more to tackle litter at source.

“Whilst we saw an overall reduction in the average amount of litter per 100 metres on Welsh beaches from last year, the Great British Beach Clean is just a snap shot in time. This reduction could be the result of the very dry summer this year combined with the increase in the number of people removing litter from beaches as part of organised beach cleans and on random visits to the coast.

“However, the 2018 data still shows that on every 100 metres of Welsh beach, an average of six drinks bottles and six cans were found, which is unacceptable as these items could so easily be recycled.”

Although Wales is the world’s third best recycling nation, MCS believes that putting a financial value on many of our single use, throwaway plastic items is required to further increase its recycling rates. Gill Bell says the charity wants to see a comprehensive Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in Wales for beverage containers of all materials and all sizes. Countries where these schemes have been put in place have seen a reduction in littering up to 80% for those items.

A DRS is already under development in Scotland and MCS says the Welsh Government now has a golden opportunity to bring in the best system possible - one that will include all bottles and cans. This will not only ensure maximum participation and minimum confusion but will also produce the greatest economic benefits in terms of cost savings, job creation and boosting the development of domestic recycling infrastructure. A Defra consultation on DRS in England and Wales is expected in the coming months.

Key findings from the Great British Beach Clean in Wales:

On average, for every 100 metres of Welsh coastline cleaned there were -

nearly 190 plastic/polystyrene pieces 40 plastic caps /lids 15 cotton bud sticks 15 drinks bottles and cans 8 wet wipes 4 plastic bags 2 plastic / polystyrene cups “Having such a record number of Welsh volunteers for the Great British Beach Clean during the Year of the Sea was great, but there has to be a three-pronged attack on marine litter, led by the right policies from Government, new practices from manufacturers and behaviour change from the public,” says Gill Bell.


Actions you can take

  1. Visit the beachwatch website
  2. Organise a beach clean
  3. Discover more about MCS in Wales
  4. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  5. Join a beach clean

Did you know?…

It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute

Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans

Why not join a beach clean ... or organise one?

To date, our beach clean volunteers have removed 6 million pieces of litter from our beaches and collected marine litter data to support our campaigns for cleaner seas and beaches.

Learn more and join a beach clean