'We faced a litter crisis in 2020:' How we can help protect our beaches next year
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Unfortunately, increasing numbers of visitors to the Fylde coast during the coronavirus pandemic's national lockdowns in 2020 also brought more litter to the coast.
With the introduction of PPE, wildlife on our beaches suddenly found itself battling discarded masks and gloves, which pose a serious threat to the safety of coastal birds and creatures.
According to charity The Marine Conservation Society, its annual Great British Beach Clean, held across the UK in September, revealed an "alarming volume of PPE litter."
This year, volunteers were asked to organise their own smaller beach cleans in "bubbles", in line with Government guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Face masks and plastic gloves were found on almost 30 per cent of beaches cleaned by Marine Conservation Society volunteers during the week-long event.
Beaches across the Fylde coast were no exception, prompting beach care teams and volunteers to urge the public to be more mindful about taking their rubbish home.
Emily Parr, Fylde beach care officer at Keep Britain Tidy, said our beaches faced a "litter crisis" during 2020.
She said: "2020 saw a significant increase in the number of people using our wonderful coastline and visiting the beach.
"With the expected increase in staycations and people’s new understanding of the value of visiting open space, we expect another busy summer on local beaches in 2021.
"However, unfortunately our beaches faced a litter crisis during 2020. Many people chose to leave their litter behind and behaved quite irresponsibly, causing harm to the coastal environment, the oceans and wildlife.
"We need to ensure this does not happen again and that individuals take responsibility for any waste they generate on the beach. All litter and items brought to the beach should be taken home, rather than left for beach clean volunteers and the council to collect."
Ruth Booth, volunteer leader of St Annes Beach Care, told The Gazette last month that more and more PPE was being picked up on beach cleans.
She said: "We are finding masks on every beach clean, which is extremely depressing. One day I found three within just 100 metres."
Another volunteer, Ian Roberts, added: "I have seen a steady increase in the number of discarded face masks and gloves while beach cleaning since March.
"Some will have been dropped accidentally, although I do wonder how so many have reached the beach and whether some have been intentionally littered."
The increase in discarded PPE was something Emily at Keep Britain Tidy hoped would subside in 2021.
Emily continued: "2020 has introduced us to mass usage of PPE items and globally 53 million disposable face masks are sent to landfill every day now.
"However, countless masks can be seen littering streets, parks and beaches. During 2021, we all need to play our part in ensuring every single face mask used is disposed of correctly.
"As they are so lightweight, they can easily be picked up by the wind so everyone needs to be extra careful to ensure they are binned correctly.
"Unfortunately, they cannot be recycled and many are a single use item. We would encourage everyone to use a good quality reusable face mask, instead of multiple single use masks each day."
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