Plastic bottles found in over 80 per cent of coastal sites surveyed by Coastwatch

Published by Niall Sargent on

June 8th, 2017

Plastic bottles were found in over 80 per cent of all coastal sites surveyed during the latest All-Ireland Coastwatch Survey, a new report reveals.

The results, seen by The Green News, indicate that plastic bottles are the primary macro litter item found around the island of Ireland every year. Drinks container lids and cans were also found in significant numbers.

The release of the results coincides with World Oceans Day 2017. The theme for this year’s celebration focuses on the problem of plastics pollution and cleaning the oceans of marine litter.

The Coastwatch survey is based on an examination of 275km of Irish coast by over 2,000 Coastwatch volunteers at low tide. The survey took place between 15 September and 15 October 2016. The All Ireland survey was first designed and run in Ireland in 1987. It now runs across 23 European countries.

A survey site is a stretch of shore roughly 500m long, with volunteers walking and observing the chosen site. The Dublin Fingal coast, Wexford and Cork were the most surveyed areas of the country.

coastwatch survey marine litter

While volunteers are doing a fantastic job to collect litter along our coasts, Coastwatch coordinator, Karin Dubsky, finds that “as they pick, others drop”.

“The amount of marine litter in our oceans is predicted to continue to increase unless a platter of serious actions is taken across the world,” added Ms Dubsky.

It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year, with over five trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean, weighing a whopping 268,940 tons – the equivalent of almost 25,000 Dublin buses.

According to Ms Dubsky, an important step the government should take is to introduce a deposit scheme for the return of drinks containers.

“A deposit on return is a proven incentive where consumers first pay a deposit and then redeem it when they bring back empty containers to shops which sell drinks containers,” she said.

However, she says that to date neither government on the island of Ireland has tackled the source of drinks container litter. Coastwatch has been advocating for such a system for 20 years, and will soon launch a petition calling for immediate action in this area.

“We are calling on both [governments] to introduce a deposit on return system for all drinks containers as a proven method of reducing this particularly stubborn widespread litter load to near zero,” she said. “A deposit on return system would be a win-win action, creating jobs and supports for refill and recycling, rather than downcycling or incineration.”

“A deposit on return system would be a win-win action, creating jobs and supports for refill and recycling, rather than downcycling or incineration.”

The Environmental Pillar recently called for a deposit/refund scheme for certain drinks containers, which Ireland had in the past for glass bottles.

“We are still a long way off reducing the amount of waste packaging generated and the amount of single-use disposable items discarded in this country,” said Pillar spokesperson Mindy O’Brien at a pre-budget hearing last week.

“For example, during a recent week-long Spring Clean in Limerick and Kerry, volunteers collected 160 tonnes of rubbish, of which over 300,000 coffee cups were collected,” she added.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London