Support independent journalism - become a member

Shocking increase in plastic litter on beaches revealed

Arrochar is seen as a particular blackspot for litter
Arrochar is seen as a particular blackspot for litter

The amount of plastic litter found on beaches in Argyll and Bute has almost trebled in 30 years, a new report has revealed.

The GRAB Trust has marked its 25th anniversary by releasing a comprehensive Beach Litter Report for the area.

The report is compiled from The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Beachwatch data (1994-2022) and provides a snapshot of the amount and types of litter polluting our beaches.

It shows that Argyll and Bute suffers higher than the national average levels of litter and presents the key trends for Argyll and Bute.

A total of 324,248 pieces of litter were surveyed and plastic accounted for 75% of this – on average there are 412 pieces of plastic litter per 100m of beach, almost three times the 1994 figure.

Sanitary items are the second most common type of material found, while an interactive map makes the data easily available:

The report was compiled by Kerry MacKay, education officer on the Beaches and Marine Litter Project for The GRAB Trust.

“It’s been fascinating delving into the data and seeing the solid facts on beach litter levels. Many people have their opinion on how bad beach litter is and who might be responsible for it. Now we are pleased to share the cold hard evidence in this report,” she said.

“It not only reveals a concerning picture of the quantity of litter in our coastal environment, threatening our marine ecosystems, spoiling the natural beauty of our beaches and affecting both local communities and tourism.

“It also provides a detailed breakdown of the various types of litter and links to a google map of Argyll and Bute to show locations of the surveys carried out.

“Data collection and analysis play a vital role in understanding the sources, patterns and geographic location of beach litter.

“It provides the necessary information for developing effective strategies to reduce litter and optimise resources to ensure clean-up efforts are targeted where they are most needed in order to protect our beaches and marine ecosystems.

“This report serves as a call to action for everyone to take responsibility for their waste and make conscious choices to protect our beaches. Together, we can make a significant difference and ensure the long-term preservation of our beautiful coastline.”

There have been 434 individual beach surveys undertaken on 156 unique beaches in Argyll and Bute, spanning September 1994 to December 2022.

In total 5,151 volunteers have taken part in surveys, giving a combined total of 8,755 hours of volunteer survey time.

This equates to a contribution of around £91,227 at UK living wage.

These figures do not account for the many more beach cleans and litter picks that happen annually but are not recorded as Beachwatch surveys,

Over 14,135kg of litter in 3,008 bin bags has been collected and recorded during the surveys.

The average is 33kg of litter per survey, in seven bags

Some blackspots are far worse, such as Arrochar where volunteers recorded total of 7,023 pieces of litter  larger than 2.5cm in just one square metre – the report includes a separate section on Arrochar.

The full report is available here.