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Last Updated: Friday April 20 2007 05:41 GMT

Huge rise in beach litter

Litter on a beach. Copyright Tim Fanshawe

We're bigger litter bugs on our beaches than ever - as the amount of rubbish has nearly doubled in the last 12 years, according to a survey.

On average two pieces of litter were found for every metre of beach that was studied in 358 areas in the UK.

And the rubbish is down to individuals either dropping litter or wrongly flushing items down the toilet, such as cotton buds, that end up on beaches.

Crisps packets and sweet wrappers were the fourth worst beach litter.

The Marine Conservation Society's (MCS) Beachwatch survey found the amount of litter had increased by 90% from 1,045 items per kilometre in 1994 to 1,989 items per kilometre in 2006.

Top litter items
Dog helps with cleaning up the beach. Copyright Fran Crowe
Pieces of plastic, 1cm-50cm; 13.2%
Cotton bud sticks; 8.6%
Pieces of plastic, less than 1cm; 6.2%
Crisp/sweet/lolly wrappers; 5.6%
Polystyrene pieces; 5.5%

The report is based on information collected by more than 4,000 volunteers on 358 UK beaches - covering 187km of coastline - during 16 and 17 September 2006.

The charity is calling for a UK-wide environmental education campaign to change litter-dropping and flushing habits.

MCS spokeswoman Emma Snowden said: "This should be such an easy environmental issue to resolve and yet the message is still not getting across - everyone must take responsibility to bag it and bin it and never flush it."