Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Visit Scotland (and dump your litter)

Scotland's coastline and beaches have more litter on them than any others in the UK, according to a new survey.

The Marine Conservation Society said that 43,078 items were collected on 46 Scottish beaches in 2007. Scotland had the highest levels of overall litter density in the UK, recording a 30.4% increase on 2006 and the highest level since 1996.

The level of sewage-related debris in Scotland was more than five times the national average, with East Bay Beach in Helensburgh recording particularly high levels.

Sewage-related debris levels have fallen to record lows in England and Wales but continue to account for around 26% of waste on Scottish beaches.

Carrier bags, drinks bottles and cigarette butts contributed to the plastic waste which made up the main source, 29.7%, of the litter on Scottish beaches.

Emma Snowden, the society's litter projects co-ordinator, said: "The plastic litter problem needs to be tackled at all levels, from grassroots to government, while industry and retail must acknowledge the need to reduce plastic bag use and packaging. Plastics are of particular concern as they could persist in the marine environment for centuries with fatal consequences for wildlife."

Almost 4000 volunteers surveyed parts of of UK coastline in September 2007 and removed more than 346,000 items of litter ranging from cloth and fishing line to lollipop wrappers.

The most common items of debris were pieces of plastic which could have come from the breakdown of plastic bags, packaging or bottles, according to the society.

Also in the top 10 most commonly found items were plastic rope, plastic caps and lids, crisp, sweet and lollipop wrappers, polystyrene pieces, cotton bud sticks, cigarette stubs, fishing net and glass pieces.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "Most people take care to dispose of rubbish responsibly but the minority who don't can have a very unpleasant and very damaging impact on the environment for the rest of us and they need to think again about their actions. Councils have been making greater use of their powers to deal with litter, including fining and prosecuting litterbugs. However, we all need to take personal responsibility for our actions."

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