As I live by the coast, a lot of the waste that is littered ends up in the oceans (not by people placing it there, but rather through water run-off and/or wind). This not only happens here, but in all countries around the world.
Due to the ocean gyres (currents that rotate the sea water around the oceans) this rubbish can get carried miles, across continents, and end up in a completely different country. For example, the UK often receives a lot of marine litter (especially fishing gear which is numbered and registered) from the USA, and visa versa.
There is often litter on the beaches, even if it is not at first apparent. Cotton bud sticks, glass, cigarette butts and microbeads are often hidden in the sand or seaweed and hard to spot unless you’re looking through the sand. The larger litter items, such as wrappers, fishing gear and large plastic pieces are a lot easier to spot, but are not necessarily giving the full picture. Macroplastics actually break down into microplastics and do not ever degrade into nothing. It is estimated that by 2100 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
By completing a beach clean, Surfers Against Sewage can not only calculate how much litter there is now compared to previous years, but they can also recover items from decades ago (proving that these items do not break down).
Us at the start:
Along with all the usual litter, including lots and lots and lots of microplastics, lots and lots of polystyrene, cotton buds, and glass fragments, we also found cans (which were washed clean of their branding), recreational fishing gear (complete with barbed hooks and plastic fish bait), the head of a rubber duck, a shoe sole and a plastic fish (which would have originally had sauce inside).
Below is just a small snippet of what one volunteer found:
Despite the Big Spring Beach Clean only occurring once a year, we can all do our bit throughout the year by reducing our consumption of plastics, recycling the plastics we do use, and completing mini-5 minute beach cleans in our own area to prevent plastics that have already been washed up on the beach, from returning to the ocean. This is important, not only on coastal areas, but in all water bodies, to prevent more plastics ending up in our oceans.