This table provides metadata for the actual indicator available from UK statistics closest to the corresponding global SDG indicator. Please note that even when the global SDG indicator is fully available from UK statistics, this table should be consulted for information on national methodology and other UK-specific metadata information.
Beach litter (beach surveys)
Median count of plastic debris items over 100m stretches of beach. All beach cleans were conducted during the Great British Beach Clean (GBBC), which is run by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). GBBC is a citizen science event held in September every year.
Figures differ to those on the global database as data were restricted to 100m surveys on a specific weekend in September, and the median count per 100m is used. data on the global database are modelled from a more diverse data set and more assumptions are made.
|Unit of measurement||
Plastic - Items classified under the groupings of plastic/polystyrene, rubber, sanitary, medical, and bagged faeces are classed as ‘plastic’ for the purposes of this indicator.
Suspected source - Suspected origin of litter items is based on a guide produced by the Marine Conservation Society. Not all litter items have been allocated a suspected origin, so these data cannot be used to say what proportion of litter is from each source. Counts from different sources should not therefore be compared, however trends can be.
No calculations were required on the source data.
For full information on quality and methodology please see the Quality and Methodology Information for GBBC plastic litter data (SDG 14-1-1b)
Some data are based on a small sample of beaches and are therefore less reliable estimates. This is particularly the case for Northern Ireland, and older values for Wales and Scotland. Median counts based on fewer than 35 beaches are flagged as 'low reliability' in the download table (select 'Download Source CSV').
Number of volunteers has a complex relationship with litter count and is not controlled for in these figures. There is no clear overall pattern in volunteer numbers over time, however 2020 figures should not be compared with other years due to much lower volunteer numbers following covid regulations. Volunteer numbers for England and Northern Ireland are, in most years, higher than those in Wales and Scotland. This may have led to slightly higher litter counts in England and Northern Ireland than in Scotland and Wales. As such, comparisons of litter counts should not be made between countries (though overall trends may be compared).
Changes in which beaches are included each year, and differences in number of volunteers between years reduce our ability to draw conclusions about short term changes in litter counts, however longer term trends are robust.
The data presented here use the median of beach litter counts rather than the mean because of the distribution of the data (heavily right skewed with lots of outliers). Median counts of beach litter lead to lower estimates than the mean.
These data are for plastic- related items only, however the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) collect data on all litter, which includes, for example, glass, cardboard, and ceramics.
Data collected in beach cleans that were over a different distance to 100m are not included in these estimates as this allowed for a more standardised measure.
Count of litter items does not include the category 'plastic/polystyrene pieces under 2.5cm' as small items are less likely to be seen, collected, and reported. In addition, they cannot be assigned a source.Data follows the UN specification for this indicator. This indicator has been identified in collaboration with topic experts.
|Data last updated||04 October 2022|
|Metadata last updated||04 October 2022|