A charity is appealing for help to create the UK's biggest beach clean.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is asking people who love the coast to organise a beach clean and survey, and do their bit in the worldwide fight against marine litter.
It will be running its 24th annual Great British Beach Clean-up between September 15 and 18, when it is aiming to clean 500 beaches.
The charity hopes this year’s clean-up will put the UK in the top 10 of the 100 or so participating countries and regions which take part in the International Coastal Clean-up during the same weekend every year.
MCS beach and river clean project officer Lizzie Prior said: "Throughout the UK, where many communities rely on the cleanliness of beaches for their coastal economy, beach litter and the problems it causes to both humans and wildlife is often largely ignored by the public and local and national authorities.
"Over the last two decades beach litter has steadily risen. Our volunteers clean and survey the litter on hundreds of beaches every September, making this survey the most respected and long standing in the UK, but we need more people to host cleans at new beaches as well as at existing beaches on our database.
"The more beaches we have litter data for, the clearer the picture we will have of where it all comes from and what we can do about it."
The MCS Great British Beach Clean is part of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Clean-up. Last year volunteers, at beaches all over the world, covered a distance of 14,990 miles and collected weird finds ranging from a piano to drones, selfie sticks to typewriters. In the UK, 364 beaches were cleaned.
This year, it is being sponsored by Waitrose, which is donating £500,000 to MCS from its carrier bag fund to help make the 2017 Great British Beach Clean-up the biggest in the event’s history.
Waitrose is also supporting MCS’ year-round marine litter survey work and over the next year the charity aims to organise 1,000 beach and river clean-ups across England alone for people to participate in.
Although the Great British Beach Clean doesn’t take place until September, MCS says it is vital that new organisers get involved now so volunteers have enough time to sign up to the new clean-ups.
"We would love to see nearer 500 beaches cleaned this year ," said Lizzie. "Anyone wishing to run a beach clean will get lots of help from MCS. The coast isn’t just for a week’s holiday…it's for all year round. Our volunteer numbers put us 17th out of 112 countries in 2016. It would be great to break into the top 10 this year."
Tor Harris, head of responsible sourcing and sustainability at Waitrose, said: "Our coast is important to all of us so the Great British Beach Clean is a key opportunity to reduce pollution, especially from plastics. It's our first step in donating £1 million to projects to tackle plastic pollution.
"This builds on our plastics environmental commitments to only sell paper stem cotton buds, nothing containing microbeads and to ensure that all our packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025. We’d love for our customers and partners (employees) to sign up and organise local beach cleans to improve them for wildlife and all of us."
To get involved in the clean-up, visit www.mcsuk.org/greatbritishbeachclean or ring 01989 566017.