We are the dumping ground

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Our passion for plastic is leaving an unforgivable legacy of litter on Scotland’s beaches, says UK’s leading marine charity.

Plastic vies for space in the sand alongside sweet wrappers, cigarette stubs and drinks bottles as our beaches reveal anti-litter campaigns are now falling on deaf ears.

Plastic made up almost 56 per cent of all litter found on Scotland’s beaches during a single weekend last September, according to the annual Beachwatch Big Weekend Report published by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

The amount of plastic overall on UK beaches in 2012 rose by 3 per cent compared to the year before. Even more concerning is the doubling in the number of cigarette stubs found on beaches between 2011 and 2012 with general smoking litter, including lighters and packets, increasing by 90 per cent.

The figures also reveal a rise in the number of sweet and lolly wrappers on Scottish beaches where volunteer cleaners also found over 110 plastic drinks bottles for every kilometre they surveyed.

MCS says environmental charities, regulators, and government in Scotland must step up the fight against littering. Scotland was the first UK administration to commit to a marine litter strategy back in 2010, and the Scottish Government now needs to urgently follow this through.

Figures from the Beachwatch Big Weekend 2012 reveal the amount of litter items per kilometre across the UK has risen sharply and is at its highest since 2008. 2,000 pieces were found per kilometre compared to 1,741 the year before.

In Scotland, 500 volunteers cleaned 35 beaches, covering 10.27 kilometres. 20,951 items of litter were collected filling over 254 bags. For every kilometre surveyed 2,041 pieces of litter were found, compared to 1,696 in the last survey.

Beachwatch is part of the International Coastal Clean-up which takes place in 180 countries and regions worldwide over the same weekend every September. MCS Beachwatch is the only UK clean up to feed data directly into this global event.