WITH thousands of people set to descend on beaches and coastlines around the country this weekend, An Taisce is urging people to take part in a two-minute beach clean-up.
More than half-a-million pieces of litter were collected from the Irish coastline last year, with 80pc of the litter coming from land-based activities.
Clean-up groups organised 700 clean-ups throughout the year, resulting in a massive amount of rubbish being removed from the coastline.
Annabel Fitzgerald, Coastal Programmes Manager of An Taisce, said the true amount of rubbish collected from the coastline may be much higher.
"Last year there were 700 registered clean-ups throughout the year and probably many more. And we removed from the coastline just over half-a- million pieces of marine litter items – it was quite significant.
"But that doesn't take into account the work of other NGOs in this area. I know that Coast Watch do marine litter surveys and ecological surveys as well.
"If you were to add those clean-ups to the loop, I'm sure we'd be removing much greater amounts than just half-a-million litter items," she said.
She reiterated that 80pc of litter found on the coastline comes from land-based activities. Recreational litter, bottles, litter associated with fishing and sewage-related debris make up the vast majority of the litter.
"We find a lot of fishing litter, bits of rope nets, fishing boxes washing ashore.
"We also find quite a lot of sewage-related debris, things like cotton buds, sanitary products, things that people are actually flushing down the toilet that they should be disposing of correctly," she said.
The body now wants to get more people involved in the two-minute beach clean-up to raise awareness of the growing problem.
"It's a really simple and inspired idea," said Ms Fitzgerald. Speaking at a recent EPA conference in Galway, she urged beachgoers to spend just two minutes picking up litter, taking a photo of it on their mobile phone and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #twominutebeachclean.
"It's basically a great way of getting individuals involved in beach cleans. It's about raising awareness of marine litter and it's creating a sense of environmental responsibility among all of us.
"I think one of the things we have found out of this is that people are surprised at how much litter they can actually collect in two minutes. So please get involved – the next time you are at the beach for whatever reason, just pick up a couple of pieces," she added.