In its survey of Britain's seashores published today, Coastwatch UK has recorded more than 350,000 separate items of litter along 2,114kms (1,321 miles) of the nation's coastline. This is more than twice the total recorded last year, but the survey, carried out in late September 1993, found that the amount of sanitary waste littering the beaches had tripled - 84,400 items, including condoms and sanitary towels.
Medical waste, including used syringes, was also up threefold, from a total of 446 items in 1992 to 1,248 in 1993.
About 6,000 volunteers took part in the study, which is sponsored by Norwich Union and is now in its fifth year.
Dr Gareth Rees, who co- ordinates the survey, said: 'The amount of waste and pollution on the coastline is nothing short of a national disgrace. Officially we are being told that coastal areas are getting cleaner, but our study shows this is not the case.'
In June 1993, the Tidy Britain Group announced that the number of beaches failing its seaside awards had more than halved, supposedly indicating that the coastline was becoming cleaner and safer. At the time of the awards, a group member, Nigel Tansley- Thomas, said: 'These results show that people who run beaches have realised that with dwindling visitors they have got to give a first class service.'
Dr Rees, who is a microbiologist at Farnborough College of Technology, said yesterday: 'Many people are plainly unaware of the facts. We must begin stemming the relentless tide of litter and pollution blighting our coastline.'
In Cumbria, for each kilometre of coastline surveyed, the volunteers found 592 plastic bottles, 643 cans, 789 sanitary items, and three pieces of medical waste. The second most polluted coastline was across the bay, in Dumfries and Galloway, which averaged 271 plastic bottles, 211 cans, and four sanitary items per kilometre.
In contrast, Tayside, where one local council last year spent pounds 25,000 on a beach cleaning machine, the figures were eight plastic bottles, five cans and three sanitary items.
Nationally, only 10 per cent of the area surveyed met Coastwatch UK's criteria for being of 'excellent' quality, while 45 per cent was considered to be polluted. Sewage pollution was demonstrably worse than recorded in the previous survey, with almost 25 per cent of the coastline having some sewage-related debris littered along it, while visible sewage slicks were reported along 77kms (48 miles) of coastline.
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