Planning a beach holiday with the kids this summer? Got your swimming costumes, suntan cream, snacks, nappies and wet wipes all sorted? Good. But something else to add to the list is a packet that you can collect your rubbish in, to be thrown away at the nearest bin.
This might sound fairly obvious but the reminder is necessary; the latest results of the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) annual beach clean-up have revealed that the number of wet wipes has more than doubled between 2013 and 2014. Thirty-five of the non-biodegradable cleaning cloths were found for every kilometre of beach. Yikes!
Experts reckon that the accumulation of wet wipes could be partly due to the severe rainfall during the 2013-14 winter, with choked sewers flooding more rubbish (including wet wipes) than usual into rivers, spewing it up on beaches. But Charlotte Coombes, an MCS conservation officer, said there was a long-term increase in the number of cloths ending up in the environment and on beaches in particular, in other words; haphazard beach users are also to blame.
Wipes are notorious for their impact on sewer systems, but the impact on ecosystems is also a concern – turtles for example; five of the world’s seven remaining species of turtle regularly visit Britain’s waters to feed in the cooler, nutrient-rich seas often mistaking plastic bags or wet wipes for their natural jellyfish prey.
Interestingly the increase in litter was not uniform. The south-west saw an increase of 89 per cent in litter, in Wales the increase was 46 per cent. In Scotland and northern England less rubbish was found than in 2013. The MCS said the government should act to halt the increase in beach rubbish. The society has called for a policy that targeted the main sources of marine litter – the public, fishing, shipping and sewage-related debris (including wet wipes).
And as mums and dads, we can do our own little bit to keep our fabulous beaches clean and healthy – throw our wet wipes in the bin, not down the toilet or in the soil.