A pair of slinky pink undies picked up by astronaut Tim Peake has made the top 10 list of weirdest items found washed up on the UK’s beaches in 2020.
The astronaut joined a litter pick at Chichester in September – one of the hundreds of beach cleans run by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) every year.
Peake joked on Instagram: “Skinny dipping anyone? What do you like to do on the beach? Whatever it is, please remember to take your underwear with you when you leave.
“These saucy smalls and an old fishing rod were just some of the things we found on our #greatbritishbeachclean at the weekend. @mcs_uk #beachcleanup #plastic.”
A glitterball and plastic Christmas tree were among the festive flotsam to make the top 10, along with a plastic Olaf figure from the film Frozen and Christmas baubles.
Elsewhere, in what sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, volunteers for MCS’s Beachwatch programme found a double mattress, a wig and a single wedding shoe.
A fridge door and a 20-year-old crisp packet were more stark reminders of just how many millions of tonnes of rubbish end up in the ocean each year, and how long it will stick around.
Crisp packets, cigarettes, sweet wrappers and drinks bottles are among the most commonly littered items around the world.
But the pandemic is now also taking its toll on our marine environment, with MCS volunteers finding disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves on 30% of beaches.
Worryingly, 70% of MCS’s inland litter picks found PPE items, meaning it is just a matter of time before they make their way to the ocean.
The plastic items can be ingested by wildlife, or they can become entangled in the straps and take decades to break down.
The thousands of volunteers that take part in Beachwatch litter picks record what they find, with the data used to inform MCS’s campaigns for policies to cut single-use plastic waste.
Beachwatch has been supported by funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery, receiving £2.65 million in grants since 2018.
Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “I was shocked to learn about the vast assortment and sizes of the items that have been washed up on our beaches.
“It is a stark reminder that we need to do more to protect our seas and I’m delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery continue to support this valuable work.”