Local beaches among worst for toilet waste, says report

by Nan MacFarlane

BEACHES in Berwickshire and north Northumberland are among those shamed in a survey which found increasing levels of toilet waste on Britain’s shores.

It has been revealed that people are putting far more down their toilets than they should be and the result is beaches awash with items like sanitary towels, tampon applicators, condoms and cotton buds.

Beaches at Eyemouth, Burnmouth, Berwick, Spittal, Seahouses, Bamburgh and Beadnell are all included in the latest findings from the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Beachwatch Big Weekend 2010 report. The report shows that people in the UK appear to have increasingly dirty habits when it comes to what they are putting down their toilets. North-east of England beaches and Scottish beaches were the worst in the country for bathroom waste.

Last year’s beach clean and survey showed a sharp rise in the amount of sewage-related debris found on seashores – items that should be thrown in bathroom waste bins, not down the pan.

The figures, which are broken down by region, reveal a shocking picture of what people do in the privacy of their own bathroom, according to MSC Beachwatch officer Anne Saunders.

“We are dismayed that the overall amount of litter within Scotland alone has risen by 24%. However, what is even more worrying is that when we look at the individual sources of litter, sewage-related debris has risen by a massive 32%. We can easily stop this disgusting source of litter from reaching beaches by not flushing items such as cotton bud sticks and sanitary waste down the toilet.”

Now the Marine Conservation Society is urging the public to bag it, bin it but not flush it.

The rise in this sewage-related debris highlights a gap in public knowledge, believes Ms Saunders.

“When people drop a cotton bud down the loo after cleaning their ears, applying make-up or drying baby’s creases, they have no idea that the same cotton bud could end up on their favourite beach, washed up just where they want to put their towel down,” she said. “There is a serious misconception that once it’s flushed away, it’s gone. But it just isn’t. We want people to follow our simple message – bag it, bin it – but don’t flush it. Stop using your toilet as a wet bin.”

The MCS message strikes a chord with the water industry too.

Rob Mustard, general manager, Waste Water Operations, Scottish Water, said: “When sewers and pumping stations get blocked, they overflow and sewage escapes into rivers. This can have an impact on the wildlife and the environment.

“In Scotland alone it is estimated that a shocking 340 million items of sanitary waste are flushed every year and 55 per cent of all sewer blockages are caused by people disposing of cooking fat down their sink. Every year around £6 million of customers’ money is spent by Scottish Water trying to fix these block-ages and repair the damage. We dealt with over 51,000 choked drains last year and we need the help of the public to bring this number down.”

Scotland is the only part of the UK so far to commit to a marine litter strategy, but this could all change if there is a new Scottish Government after the election on May 5.

“If you are concerned about litter on your favourite beach then highlight your concerns with the candidates standing in May’s elections, so we can make sure our beautiful beaches receive the protection they richly deserve. Ask them to commit to a marine litter strategy if they are elected,” says Anne Saunders.