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Waves of Waste

Carrying out beach cleans along your 45 miles of beautiful Yorkshire coastline, ridding its Waves from Waste. Working towards a vision of Living Seas that isn't impacted by the effects of marine litter.

Conservation goal

Astonishing figures suggest that 20,000 tonnes of marine litter is dumped into the North Sea each year, of which 15% washes up onto our shoreline. Plastic is one of our main marine litter concerns due to its persistency in the environment; plastic bottles can remain intact for up to 450 years! In 2002 a minke whale washed up on the Northern French coast with 800g of plastic bags in its stomach – including British supermarket bags!

What we are doing

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has been recruiting and supporting volunteer coordinators to carry out beach cleans all along our coastline. During each beach clean we record the litter that we collect, which feeds back into a national database collected by the Marine Conservation Society. The Trust can also analyse this data to determine local trends in marine litter, and to tackle marine litter sources directly.  

How you can support the project

The marine litter already in our oceans is constantly dumped onto our coastlines, and although this is only a small percentage of the total litter out in the marine environment, we can still make a huge impact on marine litter by removing this litter from our shoreline. Get involved with our beach cleaning schemes or carry out your own cleans. Remember, if you want to help us in monitoring and improving the awareness of marine litter impacts, join our Waves of Waste campaign and record the marine litter that is affecting our coastlines!

  • Surveys are a fun day out to explore your local beaches whilst fighting against marine litter that is accumulating worldwide. Keep an eye out on our events page for beach cleans near you, or contact the Trust to learn more about how you can become a Waves of Waste coordinator.
  • 80% of marine litter comes from land sources and the majority of litter found during our beach cleans are sourced to public litter.  By disposing of your litter responsibly, recycling all appropriate materials and telling friends and family to do the same, we can start to have a positive effect.
  • To learn about the marine litter that was collected during the YWT cleans you can read glance over our WOW 2014 summary report.

Issue in depth - the threats of marine litter by Wildlife and Fisheries Officer Laura Welton

94% of birds surveyed in the North Sea had ingested small plastic particles and 55% had more than 0.1g in their stomachs.

Marine litter is currently one of the biggest threats to the health of our oceans both nationally and globally.  It is found almost everywhere, even the most remote islands where there are no nearby sources of litter.  It causes environmental, economic, safety, health and cultural impacts, and is something that we need to get to grips with.

Impacts on marine wildlife

If we focus on the impacts that it has to marine life alone; millions of marine mammals, birds, turtles and fish die each year as a result of entanglement or ingestion of litter floating around in the sea. Due to the persistency of many marine litter items, especially those made from plastic, they are slowly broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, until eventually we can hardly see them with the naked eye, yet they still find their way into the marine food chain. 

Large animals like turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, but many marine animals are not even aware that they are ingesting particles of litter.  Filter feeding animals as small as barnacles, take in water and sieve out the particles in the water that provide them with nutrition - unfortunately this does not discriminate against small particles of litter (micro-plastics)! In addition to this, marine litter can accumulate on our seabeds, smothering anything underneath it and removing key habitats and food sources for many of our marine animals and plants, including commercial fish species.  

Plastic and polystyrene

The biggest threat comes from plastic and polystyrene that degrade slowly and remain in the marine environment causing all sort of issues for marine wildlife. 75% of marine litter is made up of plastic or polystyrene. Help us protect marine wildlife by limiting the amount of plastic you use.

This programme is supported by funding from the Crown Estate's marine stewardship programme. 



FilenameFile size
2014 WOW beach clean summary report.pdf619.93 KB
YWT Beach Clean Report397.19 KB
YWT Beach Clean Summary Report303.63 KB
Your Beach Needs You.pdf2.58 MB