South Cumbria's environmental crusaders welcome drop in plastic bags

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23 November 2016 6:43PM

THE number of plastic carrier bags found on UK beaches in surveys carried out by the Marine Conservation Society has dropped by almost half between 2015 and 2016. This is the lowest number reported in over a decade, and fantastic news for marine wildlife.

The figures were published during the third week of November in the MCS Great British Beach Clean 2016 report, based on surveys carried out in September 2016.

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In south Cumbria, several litter picks took place as part of the Great British Beach Clean. Marine trainees from South Walney Nature Reserve held two, as well as Natural England and Furness Waste Consortium.

Steve Benn, senior reserve manager at Natural England's North Walney National Nature Reserve, said: "I think it is brilliant that people are buying less plastic bags and therefore disposing of less plastic bags.

"It is definitely a step in the right direction and encouraging news from the survey. However, we have already cleaned up 700 kilos of litter this year and that is only from the nature reserve at north Walney. We would love to clean up the whole of south Cumbria's beaches and have Furness known throughout the country as one of the most beautiful beaches.

"We still find thousands of plastic bags that have been washed in for the sea during stormy weather, it really is horrible."

During the MCS campaign, attention was drawn to the marine wildlife that is harmed by litter dropped by humans. Plastic bags are especially damaging as they are a serious choking hazard.

Marine trainee Hayden Hurst, who resides at South Walney Nature Reserve, said: "We are very lucky to have the majestic leather back turtles visiting our coast during the jellyfish booms in the summer months. Unfortunately, things like plastic bags can look very similar to jellyfish and, due to the nature of the turtles' spiny teeth, once they ingest a plastic bag, they cannot regurgitate it and can often die from choking."

MCS says there has been a drop of almost four per cent in the number of litter items found on UK beaches between 2015 and 2016 – but with 268,384 individual items of litter collected at 364 events by just under 6,000 volunteers, there’s very little to be cheerful about when it comes to the sheer quantity of litter on our beaches.

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