The Scottish Government has announced that it has launched a new strategy to tackle marine litter.
Marine litter is a significant problem and a staggering amount of discarded materials - particularly plastics - wash up on our beaches every single day”Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead
The aim of the strategy, entitled 'Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland', is to develop current and future measures to ensure that the amount of litter entering the marine and coastal environment is minimised to bring ecological, economic and social benefits.
At a cost of £16.8m each year to clean up, the strategy reveals that the majority of the litter found on Scotland's beaches and in the seas around it is plastic.
The strategy proposes 40 new actions to minimise coastal and marine litter.
Efforts under the strategy will be focused not just on clearing up the litter, but preventing it in the first place. It is thought that 80% of marine litter originated on land.
One of the Scottish Government's objectives will be to improve public and business attitudes around marine and coastal litter. This incorporates an action to encourage producers to change design of products present in the marine environment including alternatives to plastic in cotton bud sticks and plastic micro beads in personal care products.
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Scotland's marine environment is one of our greatest assets and it is in everyone's interests to preserve it. Marine litter is a significant problem and a staggering amount of discarded materials - particularly plastics - wash up on our beaches every single day.
"I want this to change. It is dangerous for our marine wildlife, is damaging and costly for our fishing fleet and is an unnecessary blight on our wonderful beaches, which are enjoyed by thousands of visitors from home and abroad."
Marine Conservation Society Scotland programme manager Calum Duncan added: "Through our Beachwatch project, the biggest of its kind in Europe and now in its 21st year, thousands of Marine Conservation Society citizen scientists have not only been cleaning their beaches but also gathering proof of the increasing trend in marine litter, bringing into stark focus the scale of the problem.
"We are therefore pleased to see the Scottish Government's proactive approach to strategically tackle marine litter.
"The strategy incorporates some MCS recommendations such as extending Port Waste Reception Facilities to include fishing vessels, expansion of the KIMO Fishing for Litter initiative, encouraging alternatives to plastic micro beads in personal care products and highlighting the need to tackle sources of sewage related debris."
Zero Waste Scotland Iain Gulland also welcomed the strategy and said it was committed to reducing the impact of litter "across the country, on land and in our seas".
He added: "There's a direct link between us dumping litter on land and what ends up clogging up our seas, endangering our wildlife, and damaging our beaches and coastal areas. This is not acceptable and Zero Waste Scotland, together with partners and communities, is working to tackle this problem which all of us have the power to do something about, right now."
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Photo credit Dive in the Pink