Almost 1,000 pieces of litter were collected by volunteers scouring the coast at Carrickfergus at the weekend — litter that could have killed wildlife making its home in our seas.
That’s the shocking figure released by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), which teamed up with the volunteers to clean up the Marine Highway shoreline.
In total 984 items of litter were lifted, including 232 plastic bottles, 64 drinks cans and 67 pieces of polystyrene.
Odd finds included a paint-roller, a bottle of motorcycle oil, a pair of goggles, seven tablet packets, a tyre and a traffic cone.
Details of the garbage found will be used to tackle marine litter at its source as it can be extremely harmful to wildlife when they mistake it for food or become entangled in it, MCS said.
Amanda Wilson, the MCS organiser for the Marine Highway Shoreline, thanked the volunteers for their support and Carrickfergus Borough Council for providing gloves, bags and litter pickers.
“Volunteers noted the large amounts of cardboard fast-food related waste and cigarette packets, which are likely to come from Carrickfergus, rather than being washed ashore,” she said.
“We would ask that people take their rubbish home or use the bins provided along the Marine Highway.”
Last year’s Belfast Telegraph Big Spring Clean campaign revealed how at least 10% of breeding birds on Strangford Lough are using our waste as their nesting material, according to the National Trust.
Trust wardens have also come across a number of fledglings that have been throttled by the litter making up their nests — plastic rope and fishing wire used in the fishing industry are the worst offenders.
They are also well aware of a seal sighted swimming in the lough with fishing wire knotted around it.
Not only does marine litter kill wildlife, it looks disgusting, is a hazard to health and costs millions to clear up, MCS says.
“There are two pieces of litter for every footstep you take on a beach. Marine wildlife gets entangled in litter and accidentally ingests it,” a spokesman said.
“Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and the bags block their stomachs, often leading to death from starvation.
“Seabirds mistake floating plastic litter for food, and over 90% of fulmars found dead around the North Sea have plastic in their stomachs.
“Plastic litter on beaches has increased 146% since 1994. Plastic never biodegrades. It just breaks down into small pieces but does not disappear.
“Microplastic particles are now found inside filter feeding animals and amongst sand grains on our beaches.
“Litter comes from many sources — the public, fishing activities, sewage pipes and shipping, but it is all preventable.”
MCS Beachwatch is an annual UK-wide beach litter survey and clean-up organised by the Marine Conservation Society since 1993. Volunteers remove all the litter from a measured area of their local beach, recording every item that they find.
The data gathered from Beachwatch every September is published by MCS in the Beachwatch Report which is used at national and international levels to raise awareness of the impacts of marine litter, to promote measures to reduce litter at source and to campaign for marine litter legislation.