Modern Journalism | We Keep It Simple

These are the top 10 items now washing up on the beaches of Britain and it's mostly plastic

Published: 26 MAR 2018 10:54AM

Words by Holly White | Staff Writer

“MARINE CREATURES die each year through starvation due to eating plastic that stays in their stomach making them feel full. It is estimated that we eat up to 11,000 pieces of microplastics a year, and if nothing is done to tackle the issue of plastic in our oceans, it’s estimated that there will be 80 million metric tonnes of plastic going in to the sea a year by 2025. The good thing though is everyone has the opportunity to be part of the solution. Helping identify rubbish on The Plastic Tide site will be one invaluable way of helping to keep our beaches clean.” - Peter Kohler, founder and director of The Plastic Tide

As part of British Science Week that took place between 9th - 18th March, a nationwide study took place to identify the main pollutants now washing up on the shores of the UK.

The British Science Association and charity The Plastic Tide have asked the general public to tag and image items found on beaches across the UK to help train a computer that will be capable of identifying what each item is. The end goal to build a database of over 250,000 image tags of the biggest offending items to hit the shores in order to tackle the problem of trash in the oceans.

Since The Plastic Tide’s launch a year ago, a total of 3,000 items of litter have been detected on 30 UK beaches. Plastic rope and small net pieces top the list of the most common items. Plastic from food packaging makes up 21% of all rubbish littering the coast in The Plastic Tide’s snapshot. Some of the more unusual items recorded include a dolphin spine, a solar panel mushroom and a 20-year-old Lego Cutlass.

The Plastic Tide has over 7,000 registered volunteers to date, and have classified over 1.5 million images in the 12 months the project has been live.

These are the top ten items washing up on the beaches of Britain:

1. Plastic rope/small net pieces (37%)
2. Plastic or foam fragments (29%)
3. Plastic food wrappers (7%)
4. Plastic bags (5%)
5. Plastic bottles (4%)
6. Fishing lures and lines (4%)
7. Container caps (3%)
8. Fabric pieces (2%)
9. Plastic jugs or containers (1%)
10. Straws (1%)

“By visualising the findings on a map it’s simple for people to see the impact of plastic pollution on our coastal shoreline. We strongly endorse the work of The Plastic Tide and encourage members of the public to get involved by tagging the plastic debris they find on our beaches.” - Ben Flanagan, Technical Research Lead for Esri UK

It's is estimated that 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris are now in circulation in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.

Plastic is now one of the biggest threats to wildlife in the ocean and the ecosystems that inhabit them. The ocean has an enormous impact on global climates all over the Earth helping to regulate coastal temperatures which in turn determines many weather patterns. Drastic changes in our oceans will lead to drastic changes in these aspects of our daily lives.


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