Beach cleaning provides vital information on plastic pollution

Beach cleans can provide vital information on plastic pollution, according to researchers at the University of Exeter. 

Increasing awareness of the dangers that plastic pollution is having on the oceans and marine wildlife has led to more and more individuals to take part in beach cleans.

Numerous organisations, such as The Great British Beach Clean organise and co-ordinate volunteers to take part in such beach cleans.

However, currently, the different organisations collect different data on the plastic that they collect, which as a result makes the data difficult for scientists to analyse.

Therefore, the University of Exeter has contacted 25 of the leading beach cleaning organisations in the UK to co-ordinate a new approach to collecting data in order to hopefully improve data-sharing.

This project, which launched yesterday (February 6), has been awarded £20,000 Citizens Exploration Grant by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Dr Sarah Nelms, from the University of Exeter, said: ‘Understanding the scale and composition of litter along coastlines is important for planning strategies to reduce plastic pollution and its impact on the marine environment.

‘By engaging with the UK’s main beach cleaning organisations we can try to understand how much plastic is removed from beaches and what information is gathered.

‘We want to review current data collection methods and see whether there’s a scope to enhance collaboration among the various organisations that carry out beach cleans’

Professor Peter Hopkinson, co-director of the Exeter Centre for Circular Economy said: ‘At present, too much plastic is used once, thrown away and ends up in the environment.

‘We want to understand how citizen science clean-up schemes could target actions to present, reduce re-use and recycle beach plastics into productive high-value products.’

In related news, in September 2019, Break Free from Plastic conducted a brand audit of single-use plastics in 51 countries, across six continents.

By collecting data from all of these countries, the researchers found that Coca-cola was the number one polluter, with a total of 11,742 branded Coca-cola plastics were collected across four continents in 37 countries.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Pippa Neill

Pippa Neill

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