Tourists blamed for bulk of beach debris

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Tourists are the biggest beach polluters, accounting for more than a fifth of the rubbish collected from seaside resorts, it was disclosed today.

A huge beach clean-up operation collected 17.5 tonnes of rubbish from 203 stretches of Britain's coastline. Items found included an entire railway sleeper, a fridge, a washing machine, a Russian salt-pot and an aerosol can from Israel. Holidaymakers and other visitors were responsible for dropping more than 18,000 crisp and sweet packets, more than 8,000 drink cans and nearly 10,000 cigarette ends.

But the Beachwatch '96 clean-up, organised by the Reader's Digest and the Marine Conservation Society, did show that beaches were becoming slightly less polluted.

An average of 1,482 items of debris per kilometre were gathered from the 203 beaches, compared with 1,636 per km from 196 coastal stretches in the previous clean-up.

After tourism, shipping was the next worst polluter - blamed for 17.4 per cent of debris, including nearly 27,000 lengths of rope and cord - followed by sewage-related debris, including more than 30,000 cotton buds and 6,000 sanitary products. The 3,300 clean-up volunteers also collected more than 4,500 lengths of fishing line that can entangle and kill wildlife.

A spokesman for the Marine Conservation Society said: "We have to change attitudes towards litter and encourage individual responsibility in today's throwaway society."