THE results of an annual nationwide beach clean have found a "staggering" increase in litter levels on Scotland's beaches.

Organised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), The Great British Beach Clean cleared more than 13 kilometres of beach in Scotland in September with the help of 1200 volunteers.

However, the results of their efforts – which filled in excess of 400 bags with litter – revealed that certain products are increasingly finding their way onto Scotland’s shoreline, with a 42% increase in litter levels when compared to last year. 

Over 7000 wet wipes were recorded by volunteers, concentrated on beaches in Scotland’s central belt - an increase of 150% since 2021.

This means that an average of 63 wet wipes were recorded for every 100 metres of Scottish beach surveyed.

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The MCS stated that many of these wet wipes are ending up on beaches via overflowing sewage pipes, known as Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs).

Comparing 2015 to 2021, the MCS’s surveys have found that instances of wet wipes on beaches have increased almost fourfold (372%).

The society, as well as Scottish Water, are calling on the Scottish Government to ban plastic in single-use wet wipes as soon as possible because of the havoc they play with the sewage system and their harmful impact on the environment.

The build-up of wet wipes in pipes can result in sewage overflows, which then leaches out into the marine environment.

However, there is limited data as to how often such overflows happen in Scotland due to the lack of monitoring of CSOs by Scottish Water.

As such, the MCS is calling on the Scottish Government to install electronic monitoring on all overflows by 2024, with data published on an annual basis as a minimum.

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Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “No one wants to go to a beach and find themselves surrounded by washed-up wet wipes.

"We have been talking about this for far too long, and our beaches and wildlife are suffering as a result.

“Bold action needs to be taken now. We need Scottish Government to ban plastic in single-use wet wipes and invest in the sewage network to stop spills from sewer overflows polluting our seas.”

Drinks bottles were also found at 93% of all survey sites in Scotland, emphasising the need for Scotland’s deposit-return scheme to be implemented.

From August next year consumers in Scotland will be able to regain their 20p deposit on metal drinks cans and glass and plastic bottles by recycling them.

It comes as Scottish islanders were given the chance to try out a new recycling initiative ahead of the introduction of the nationwide scheme.

Orkney residents will be invited to place any single-use drinks containers into reverse vending machines for recycling as part of the Return and Recycle Orkney initiative which launches on Friday.

The machines will then generate a 5p donation to charity for every bottle or can returned.