An interactive map of the UK published Friday to coincide with British Science Week highlights the most common and unusual plastic pollution of the coastline.
Among the most found items were plastic bottles, straws, plastic fishing line and food container lids. But researchers from the British Science Association and the charity The Plastic Tide also found lavatory seats, tampons and toys.
Using aerial photos of UK beaches and drone technology, the charity is surveying shores from the Isle of Mull in Scotland to west Cornwall for plastic detritus. The public is being asked to help scientists chart plastic pollution by tagging items captured by the drone.
The BSA hopes to get more than 250,000 images tagged by members of the public, who will be helping to build a tool that can understand not only where plastics and marine litter come from, but determine the kind of material and the volume.
Peter Kohler, founder and director of The Plastic Tide, said: “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 80m 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.”
Three thousand items of litter from 30 UK beaches were analysed. Plastic rope and small net pieces topped the list of the most common items, while plastic from food packaging made up 21% of all rubbish littering the coast.
The 10 most common items found on UK beaches
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%)