Number of plastic bags in UK seas fell over the last eight years, finds study

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 6 April 2018 in News

Research finds a 30 per cent fall in the number of plastic bags in the sea around the UK since 2010, compared to the pre-2010 period

Image credit: PA

The number of plastic bags in UK seas has fallen over the last eight years, according to a new study.

The research, published in Science of the Total Environment, found a 30 per cent fall in the number of plastic bags in the sea around the UK since 2010, compared to the pre-2010 period.

But it also reported a rise in the proportion of fishing debris found, while warning the fall in bags could be due to changes in ocean dynamics, or due to improving the composition of bags to allow them to degrade faster.

Plastic bag charges have been introduced in countries across the UK in an attempt to reduce plastic litter, while the Scottish Government recently established an expert working group aimed at reducing circulation of single-use plastics.

Co-author Thomas Maes, a marine scientist at the UK Government's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, said: "It is encouraging to see that efforts by all of society, whether the public, industry, NGOs or government to reduce plastic bags are having an effect.

"We observed sharp declines in the percentage of plastic bags as captured by fishing nets trawling the seafloor around the UK compared to 2010 and this research suggests that by working together we can reduce, reuse and recycle to tackle the marine litter problem."

The research, ‘Below the surface: Twenty-five years of seafloor litter monitoring in coastal seas of North West Europe’, was based in 39 boat surveys between 1992 and 2017.

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