APP DATA: What can you do about marine litter?

How our APP data guides us

We’ve been looking at the data coming from our APP recently. So, firstly, thanks to everyone for using the app and helping us to get a picture of WHAT IS WASHING UP and WHAT YOU ARE PICKING UP.

Now that you’ve logged almost 75,000 items in more than 1500 separate beach cleans we can look at the data with relative confidence that it’s representative. Check ins have come from all over the world, with the majority of them based in the UK, which is unsurprising, considering we are based in Cornwall. That said, we are aware that lots of people don’t log their #2minutebeachclean using the app or tend to pick up certain types of litter, or that different beaches produce different types of litter. From our app data we can see that microplastics and nurdles make up just over 11% of all finds and yet we know that these items are to be found in their millions. Expecting our family to log each and every piece of plastic that’s under 5mm is too much to ask. It’s also difficult to classify microplastic as coming from any one source. It could have been anything in an earlier life. Likewise with HARD PLASTIC pieces, which are often broken up fish crates and the detritus of industry, but still hard to source effectively.

Plastic pollution from fishing

As time goes on we’ll be able to assess one location against another so we can compare one beach against another and by date. Until then, preliminary checks suggests that FISHING WASTE accounts for around 35% of litter picked up on the north coast of Devon and Cornwall, but that on the south coast that figure is more like 18%. Interesting.

For the time being, however, we have looked at the overall numbers of separate items washing up.

We have been able to attribute certain items to certain industries, and while this isn’t 100% foolproof, our experience tells us that it is reasonable to attribute 19.8% of all items logged to FISHING. Some of the most often picked up items included NET PIECES (6.82%), FISHING LINE (3.38%) and ROPE (5.9%). Other items included POTS (0.64%), BUOYS and FLOATS (0.27%) and GLOW STICKS (0.11%), which we know are used to illuminate nets and lines at night.

If we add items like FOAM (1.59%), POLYSTYRENE (3.34%) and HARD PLASTIC (6.97%), which are used by the fishing industry, but not exclusively, the figure goes up to 31.48%.

What you can do about it

If FISHING causes at least 19.58% of all waste picked up on beaches, it seems perfectly reasonable to consider how you buy and eat fish. Eating line caught fish removes the need for NET PIECES to be in the ocean. Giving up fish entirely will mean you no longer participate in the industry. Incidentally, prawn fishing practices, in some fisheries, result in as much as 90% or more bycatch.

You can also avoid buying items like fertiliser made with fishmeal or fish based products, including cat and dog food. These are often made with juvenile or forage fish that have little eating value.

Demanding the industry cleans up may help too, as will helping the industry to recover nets and recycle them. Buying products made from fishing net will help to inflate the demand and value of discarded net, encouraging schemes like Fishing for Litter and the brilliant Odyssey Innovation.

Plastic pollution from our lazy ways

The rest of the plastic that was logged pretty much comes from the way we live. It’s at once disheartening but also presents a picture of hope. Why? Because, if we stop using those items then we stop them from entering the oceans. It’s as simple as that. Of course, there will always be residual plastic floating about but at least, by giving up plastics, and helping to clear up the rest, you are stopping the flow. That’s what we need desperately.

Okay so let’s take a look.

DRINKS BOTTLES (6.86%)

CRISPS AND SWEET WRAPPERS (6.73%)

WET WIPES (3.07%)

BOTTLE TOPS AND LIDS (8.71%)

COTTON BUDS (3.15%)

PLASTIC BAGS (3.35%)

CIGARETTE BUTTS (3.13%)

STRAWS AND CUTLERY (4.41%)

COFFEE CUPS (1.22%) and LIDS (1.18%)

FOOD CONTAINERS (1.34%)

APPLICATORS (0.73%)

Together these items make up 43.5% of all the litter picked up and logged by APP users globally. The fact that any of these items are on the beach in the first place is inexcusable but it does give us hope because each and every one of us can EASILY live without plastic bottles, plastic food containers, plastic bags and coffee cups. All we have to do is change our habits.

What you can do about it

It isn’t easy to change your ways but we hope that this kind of data will help you to make those choices and changes. If we all carry a REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE and COFFEE CUP then we could help to reduce marine litter, ultimately, by over 20%.

And if we switch to paper cotton buds, stop using tampons with plastic applicators and get those wet wipes out of your life? 6.95% less crap on the beach on our watch.

Giving up crisps and sweets and carrying your own reusable bag? 10.8%

Stop smoking and give up plastic straws and cutlery? 7.54%

It starts to add up doesn’t it?

The best of the rest

While 1% might not seem like a lot of stuff in the grand scheme of things, it actually is. 1.21% of the total number of items logged, which is CLOTHING, is 901 items that could have been recycled, reused or not bought in the first place.

We are careless, aren’t we? Our playful ways also left 416 balls for the #2minutebeachclean family to pick up, along with 317 pieces of footwear, 632 beach toys, 158 Tetra Packs and 304 toothbrushes, razors and pens. And this slice of data is JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.

It’s not good enough is it? We can do better. And we will.

If you would like to hear more about our app and campaigns, please subscribe to our newsletter here.

If you’d like to support us with a donation, please do so here

For those essential plastic-free swaps, visit out shop here.

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