Plastic toll on Britain's beaches
Piles of plastic rubbish, ranging from thousands of drinks bottles and carrier bags to a joke severed finger and a set of vampire teeth, have been collected in the latest annual survey of beach litter.
Overall levels of rubbish on UK beaches last year fell by 16% on 2008 figures, according to the Marine Conservation Society, which organises the annual litter pick.
But the conservation organisation is concerned about the continuing problem of plastic waste, which it says is overwhelming UK beaches and harming wildlife.
The MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend 2009, which saw volunteers out on almost 400 beaches collecting and recording rubbish, picked up some 1,849 items of litter per kilometre - compared to 2,195 items in 2008.
But litter levels are significantly higher than when the survey started in 1994, with the amount of overall rubbish picked up increasing by 77% and plastic debris rising by 121%, the MCS said.
Plastic, from small shreds to carrier bags, made up almost two thirds (64%) of the litter found, made up a higher percentage of the overall total than in previous years of the survey.
The conservation group is particularly concerned about plastic rubbish because of its damaging impact on wildlife. From seals entangled in fishing nets and lines to leatherback turtles which have swallowed plastic, the rubbish kills and injures many marine animals every year, the MCS warned.
The conservation group warned plastic fragments also attract toxic chemicals and then are eaten by marine animals, potentially providing a path for the toxins up the food chain to humans.
The list of most commonly picked up items from UK beaches was topped by pieces of plastic, which together accounted for a fifth of the items gathered up. Food wrappers, plastic rope, plastic caps and lids, drinks bottles, fishing nets and cotton bud sticks were all among the top 10 most frequently found items.
Stranger items collected included a laboratory incubator, a message in a bottle from "Sly Sally", half a boomerang and a pile of spring onions.