The Hazards of Beach Litter

  • A. T. Williams
  • K. Pond
  • A. Ergin
  • M. J. CullisEmail author
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 1000)


Marine and beach litter include items that have been made and discarded into the marine environment by people. Over the past few decades concern has been growing regarding the amounts of litter that accumulate on beaches and seas. Litter issues have become very widespread of late due to public awareness and concern for environmental issues. Beach litter is sourced from three areas: marine, industrial and domestic wastes dumped at sea and riverine and beach litter. Such debris mars beach enjoyment, has safety implications (e.g. glass, syringes), needs cultural/attitudinal changes in order to reduce and prevent waste reaching both sea, and beaches. Irrespective of source, litter, the main culprit being plastics, is ubiquitous on global beaches and a perennial problem for any coastal manager. Plastics alone amount to some 265m tonnes worldwide much being recreational litter. Current litter policy must be geared to stopping it at source. Recycling plastics is often seen as a panacea to reducing such waste with many countries pushing for higher targets year by year. Current recycling policy is questionable, lacking workable solutions; in effect, a ‘knowledge lag’ exists with money being the inevitable forcing function. Figures from the USA show that just 33.4% of plastics are recycled; work done by WRAP in the UK suggest that 45% is achievable. Comparable and reliable methods to evaluate beach plastic litter are currently the weakest point of this particular scientific community. Marine debris can have serious effects on wildlife and their ecosystems; in some instances, such occurrences will be lethal. Clearly, it is essential that beach litter surveys obtain a representative sample by looking at annual litter counts; baseline studies should identify material types. Litter itself constitutes a serious hazard as shown from a number of previous studies, which suggest environmental quality and public health needs to be considered as key indicators. A universal approach inclusive of stringent regulations, particularly for plastic must be developed; incisive, risk-taking innovative technologies, especially in the chemistry of plastics are needed in order to solve the challenges ahead. In essence, to change the way we think about the environment.


Beach litter Hazards Plastics Environment Recycling 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. T. Williams
    • 1
    • 2
  • K. Pond
    • 3
  • A. Ergin
    • 4
  • M. J. Cullis
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Built & Natural EnvironmentSwansea Metropolitan UniversitySwanseaUK
  2. 2.e-GEO Centro de Estudos de Geografia e Planeamento Regional, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e HumanasUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Robens Centre for Public and Environmental HealthUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  4. 4.Civil Engineering DepartmentMiddle East Technical UniveristyAnkaraTurkey
  5. 5.University of SurreyGuildfordUK
  6. 6.Middle East Technical UniveristyAnkaraTurkey

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