Fishing industry waste and plastic packaging dominate UK beach litter

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
First Mile collected waste from 79 beaches around the UK for analysis as part of the Kik-Plastic Challenge

Fishing industry waste and plastic packaging are the most common types of UK beach waste, according to new analysis by recycling company First Mile .

With the help of a team of nearly 2,000 volunteers, First Mile collected waste from 79 beaches around the UK for analysis as part of the Kik-Plastic Challenge led by Kiko Matthews.

A total of 3,436kg of beach litter was collected, 859kg of which was made up of easily recyclable materials like glass bottles, aluminium cans, and plastic bottles, tubs, and cups.

With regards to non-recyclable waste, fishing industry waste such as nets and ropes dominated, appearing on around 95% of beaches.

Flexible plastics such as plastic bags and food wrappers were also widespread, as were wet wipes, clothing and shoes, plastic toys, tissues and napkins, and cigarette butts.

Magilligan Point in Northern Ireland was the UK’s worst beach, where 12 volunteers collected more than 250kg of waste.

The least waste was collected along the south and south-west coast. In Minehead, just 1.5kg was collected.

Environmentalist Kiko Matthews, who led the beach cleans by cycle-trekking 6,900km around the UK’s coastline, called the beach cleans “eye-opening”.

Founder and CEO of First Mile, Bruce Bratley, said: “It’s disappointing that the results highlight that there is still much to be done around educating beach-goers and businesses about the impact that their actions have on our environment.”

He called for external support, adding: “Local authorities need to play their part in making it easy for people visiting beaches to recycle as much as possible and should continually review their facilities to ensure they’re fit for purpose.

“An example could be the introduction of coffee cup recycling bins, or mixed recycling bins that are effectively sorted when collected.”

First Mile plans to support further beach cleans, providing boxes for the return of waste samples to its RecycleLab for analysis. This will help to build a useful wider picture of beach waste in the UK.

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