The Marine Conservation Society has called for a levy on single-use products and packaging items – things like drinks cups, lolly sticks and coffee stirrers – after levels of litter found on beaches rose by ten per cent.
The MCS's annual Great British Beach Clean, which took place this September, found that beach litter in Scotland rose by six per cent compared to last year, with an average of 490 pieces of litter cleaned from every 100-metre stretch.
Of this, rubbish described by MCS as 'on the go' items made up 17 per cent of the total found on Scottish beaches and 64 per cent of all the litter that came from the public.
As a result, drinks cups, cans and bottles, plastic cutlery, foil wrappers, straws, sandwich packets, plastic cups, lids and stirrers, and lolly sticks should have a levy similar to the 5p carrier bag charge, the MCS suggests. It has launched a petition calling for such a move.
"Scotland's 5p single-use carrier bag charge has made a massive difference to the number of plastic bags entering our seas, combined with similar charges elsewhere in the UK, and we believe we will see a similar impact on bottles and cans when Scotland's Deposit Return System is implemented," says Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland Conservation Officer.
"If a levy was placed on single-use plastic such as straws, stirrers, cutlery, cups and cup lids, we're confident that we'd find fewer of these items on Scotland's beaches."
Zero Waste Scotland says as consumers we can all play our part. "Our vision is for a circular economy, where we eliminate waste by making things last," says its Chief Executive, Iain Gulland. "Re-usable alternatives to single-use items already exist, whether for bags, bottles, cups, straws, or food packaging, so we can all make a difference today by starting to say 'no' to single use."
The Great British Beach Clean also revealed that people are still flushing more than they should down the toilet – and in even greater numbers: 'sewage related debris' (SRD) increased 40 per cent on Scottish beaches compared to last year while the number of wet wipes shot up by 141 per cent, possibly due to continued confusion over what labels mean by 'flushable'.
"No one wants to swim with a flushed wet wipe or make a sand castle out of cotton bud sticks – we can all make a difference for our seas and beaches both for society and wildlife. We need everyone to only flush the Three Ps down the loo – pee, poo and paper – that's all! Everything else needs to go in the bin so it doesn't end up on our beautiful beaches," says Gemmell.