Litter levels on beaches drop for second year

Bevan Todd from St Abbs helps with the SAS beach clean at Coldingham Bay collecting a bucket full of litter which had been either left of had washed up
Bevan Todd from St Abbs helps with the SAS beach clean at Coldingham Bay collecting a bucket full of litter which had been either left of had washed up

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says its latest beach litter figures reveal an overall drop in rubbish on Scotland’s beaches, but there’s more bathroom waste on the country’s shores than anywhere else in the UK.

Over 660 volunteer beach cleaners, taking part in the Great British Beach Clean event in September last year, found 1,803 items of litter per kilometre of Scottish beaches cleaned and surveyed, an 8% drop on 2013 levels.

However, Scotland had the highest proportion of sewage related debris (SRD) on its beaches – that’s the stuff we put down the toilet but shouldn’t, like cotton buds, condoms, nappies and wet wipes. 14% of litter found on Scottish beaches was SRD, significantly higher than Wales in second place, where only 5.5% was from bathroom waste.

Of that 14%, 34% were wet wipes, more than treble the amount in 2013 and the highest increase of these little squares anywhere in the UK.

Scottish beaches are the resting place for rising amounts of SRD - in 2013, 7.4% of litter on Scottish beaches was sewage related, which was 4.3% higher than UK average.

Scottish Water run an ongoing campaign telling people never to flush wipes, nappies, liners and tampons, cotton buds/balls, contact lenses, plasters and condoms down the loo. Like many water companies up and down the UK, money and man hours are spent unblocking pipes.

MCS Scotland programme manager, Calum Duncan, says the problem is that wipes, often described as flushable, are being put down the loo instead of thrown in the bin.

When flushed they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper.

As always, some pretty strange stuff turned up on our beaches. In 2014 volunteers found a colostomy bag, a plastic hand, part of WW2 sea defences (now in the local museum), a piping gun nozzle, a bra strap and on one beach, nine pairs of shoes in various sizes.