Thousands Give UK Coastline A Halloween Clean!

SAS Autumn Beach Clean Series Success

During the weekend of the 17th, 18th & 19th of October over 3200 beach lovers joined SAS, The Crown Estate and World Animal Protection at 123 beaches for the biggest ever nationwide Autumn Beach Clean Series. Volunteers came together from Bournemouth to Blackpool and the Isle of Skye to Sennen Cove, on the eve of Halloween, to sweep a staggering 10 TONNES of marine litter from the UK coastline.

The following stats, stories and strange finds provide just a glimpse of the immense volunteer effort that went into making the Autumn Beach Clean Series such a success.

  • 3,200 – SAS Autumn Beach Clean Series volunteers
  • 123 – The number of beaches cleaned by Surfers Against Sewage volunteers
  • 10,000 Kilograms – Of marine litter removed from the UK coastline
  • 2,250 – Bin bags of marine litter removed by SAS volunteers
  • £18 million – Cost of beach litter to UK local authorities each year
  • 10,000 Volunteer Hours – Given by Autumn Beach Cleaners
  • Retro Rubbish – A World Cup Espana 1982 football found at Perran Sands
  • Strangest Litter – A nasal hair trimmer found at Macduff, Scotland
  • Scariest Litter – A Luger pistol found perfectly preserved at Sinclair’s Bay, Scotland
  • Spookiest Litter – A Skeleton (plastic!) found at Bude
  • 126 – Biggest volunteer turn-out, at Sennen in Cornwall
  • 1 Tonne –  Biggest Haul of marine litter, from Sennen Cove in Cornwall
  • 50 – Or more volunteers at 8 SAS Autumn Beach Cleans
  • 26 – The average number of volunteers per SAS Autumn Beach Clean
  • 100 – Kilograms or more marine litter were removed at 12 Autumn Beach Cleans
  • Furthest North – Sinclair’s Bay
  • Furthest South – St Ouen, Jersey
  • Furthest East  – Horsey Beach, Norfolk
  • Furthest West – Magilligan Point, Northern Ireland
  • Most Remote – Talisker, Isle of Skye

Autumn Beach Clean volunteers were also monitoring the amounts and types of Ghost Gear on their beaches as part of World Animal Protection’s Sea Change Campaign. During the last two weeks of October alone four rare leatherback turtles have been found dead around Scotland, with one found yesterday in Dunbar that experts have confirmed died due to entanglement in lost or discarded creel fishing lines. This beautiful animal will have become entangled in ghost fishing gear whilst swimming and slowly drowned, weighted down and unable to reach the surface for air [1]

Ghost gear is the term used for lost or abandoned fishing gear such as nets, ropes, pots and hooks that continue to indiscriminately catch, injure and kill at least 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales and  an inestimable number of birds, turtles, fish and other species [2].

An estimated 640,000 tonnes of Ghost Gear enters our oceans each year [2] and accounts for almost 13% of the litter found on UK beaches [3] stats that have been supported and sadly surpassed by the results of SAS’s Sea Change Monitoring Project so far *.

  • 600+ – Years for the plastics used in fishing gear to break down.
  • 500+ – Bags of Ghost Gear removed by SAS Autumn Beach Clean Volunteers.
  • 300 metres – Of Ghost Gear per bag (approximate).
  • 150 kilometres* – Of Ghost Gear taken out of our marine environment!

What’s even more shocking than the fact that volunteers removed a massive 150,000 metres of Ghost Gear and 10,000 kilograms of litter overall is that at many beaches this effort barely scratched the surface. The UK’s coastline is now haunted by over 35 million individual items of marine litter, that’s over 2000 individual items for each precious kilometre of beach, cove, reef, harbour and estuary and every effort must be made to stop litter at source [3].

In a year which has seen the UK government’s response to the marine litter crisis criticised in a European Commission Report as showing a lack of understanding of the problem and offering weak and un-measurable targets [4],  the response of our coastal communities must not go un-heralded.

The Autumn Beach Clean Series alone meant that volunteers gave over 10,000 hours towards keeping UK beaches clean. With the recent release of a ground-breaking Marine Litter Report at the House of Commons, SAS are calling on the wider public, industry and government to follow this example and commit to reducing UK beach litter by 50% by 2020.

For more information on the Autumn Beach Clean Series or any SAS Marine Litter Campaigns visit, call 01872 553001 or email [email protected].

[1] Link to BBC Scotland online story – “Probe into death of rare leatherback turtle near Dunbar”
[2] FANTARED 2 (2003): ‘A Study to identify, quantify and ameliorate the impacts of static gear lost at sea’, retrieved 11.08.2013 from
[3] [1] Beachwatch Big Weekend – Marine Conservation Society. Retrieved 11.08.2013 from
[4] Milieu Ltd Consortium, Article 12 Technical Assessment National Report: the United Kingdom, Brussels, 2014.