The 2018 MCS “Great British Beach Clean” – My Experience

As those who follow me on Instagram will already know, on Sunday 16th September, I took part in my first (official) charity organised beach clean – the 2018 “Great British Beach Clean”, and it was awesome! For the last 25 years, thousands of volunteers have gathered at locations around the country for a weekend event of litter picking, which the charity Marine Conservation Society credits as being the biggest in the whole of the UK.

Found five cotton buds in a row here!

It was my first time taking part in an official event, and I have to say the day was extremely well organised. The team of 30 or so volunteers was made up of an entirely different group of people: Some old, some parents with young children, students, and quite a few fans of Blue Planet (Proving the power of mainstream TV). Ultimately whatever reason they had for being there, our goal was all the same: To rid our 100m stretch of beach, in a lively Somerset seaside town, of as much litter as possible. Turns out that’s a lot easier said than done!


“A turtle who consumes just one piece of plastic has a one in five chance of dying. A turtle who consumes fourteen pieces of plastic has a mortality rate of 50%.”

8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans annually.

An uncompleted survey sheet

Before being let loose with litter pickers in hand, we had a brief safety lecture and our event organiser Amy explained how the survey sheets worked – quite simply, we just had to pick up as much litter as possible in two hours and record items on the sheet using a tally system. At the end of the two hours, we would add up the total amount of items found, weigh each bag (or bucket), and record the overall amount/weight on our sheet. The bags are then collected by the local council, the organiser uploads the survey results to the MCS national database and the charity uses the results to:

Our bag being weighed
  • Produce an annual report.
  • Raise awareness of the impacts of litter.
  • Create campaigns to reduce litter at the source.
  • Share the data with other organisations and academics working on marine litter issues.

Along the 100m stretch of beach, me and my team found:

  • 35+ food packets.
  • 3 pens.
  • 50+ bits of random plastic, of various sizes.
  • 4 bits of various clothing.
  • 6 cigarette stubs.
  • 67+ cotton buds.
  • 3 shopping bags.
  • 4 straws.

and various other objects such as polystyrene, fishing net/line, bottles, lids and caps.

IMG_4177 (1)
Everyone’s bags collected

The 2017 “Great British Beach Clean” report highlighted that food and drink litter accounted for a chunky 20% of the litter found on UK beaches. 138 pieces of ‘on the go litter’ were found on average per 100m of every beach cleaned and surveyed – the charity classes ‘on the go’ litter as cups, wrappers, straws, lolly sticks and packets, amongst other things.

If my team alone found 35+ food packets, it is safe to say that our clean this year, met if not exceeded that number.

Data from the 2017 report also showed a staggering 94% increase in the number of wet wipes found, amazingly my team didn’t find one wet wipe during our two hour clean!

One of our finished survey sheets

All in all, the 2017 “Great British Beach Clean” volunteers collected 718 bits of rubbish for every 100m cleaned, 255,209 individual pieces of litter from 339 beaches. The charity declared there was a 10% increase in rubbish found over the weekend event in 2017, than that of 2016.

It’ll be interesting to see if there is an increase this year too?

The results from this year’s clean are yet to be announced, but I will be sure to attach the report here as soon as I receive it!

Have recent events inspired you to grab your gardening gloves and head on down to the beach? The Marine Conservation Society run beach cleans throughout pretty much the whole year, so there’s no excuse not to get involved! Click here to sign up to an event near you.

Want to decrease your plastic consumption, but not sure where to start? Check out my post – Ditching Plastic – 5 Super Easy Alternatives, for some convenient and affordable ideas!

Most importantly, remember you don’t need to sign up for an event to beach clean (Or clean anywhere for that matter) Grab a bin bag (or bucket), a litter picker, a pair of gloves and get picking.



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