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£17m cost of marine litter clear-up

Clearing litter from the Scottish coastline and other marine areas costs almost £17 million each year, according to ministers.

New plans have been drawn up to tackle the problem which include better monitoring, encouraging businesses to reduce packaging on particular products and recycling more waste inland to prevent it reaching the coast, with 80% of litter thought to have been dropped on land and blown into the sea.

A study reported that the majority of litter found on Scotland's beaches and seas is made from plastics, presenting a significant risk to wildlife and the environment.

It is also an issue for the fishing industry, with vessels landing more than 374 tonnes of litter between 2011-14, said to cost as much as £17,000 per ship.

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.

"Great work is being done by initiatives like Fishing for Litter and beach clean-ups - but we can all do so much more.

"I hope that everyone sits up and listens to these startling statistics on the marine litter problem and takes responsibility for disposing of litter in the proper way to prevent its negative impact on our seas and coastlines."

Calum Duncan, Scotland programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), said marine litter is an increasing problem.

"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," he said.

"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.

"The Scottish marine litter strategy provides a great opportunity to enhance education and awareness, as well as providing the tools and input to facilitate change. Marine litter is a wasted resource and we can all play a part in reducing it."

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