Recreation : Land-based recreation : Littering

Damage caused by littering from land-based recreation



Glass bottles and jars

Dog faeces

Angling line and lead weights

Discarded shotgun cartridges

Although the source of most marine pollution is industrial activity and agriculture, recreational activities can contribute to localised pollution issues. Perhaps the most obvious issue linked to recreation in coastal areas is that of discarded litter. Although the amenity impact of litter is more significant than its environmental impact, discarded litter can have direct impacts on both plant and animal species which inhabit designated coastal features. The following section reviews some of the different types of litter and their possible implications for the environment.


Much of the plastic found in coastal areas is derived from accidental spillage from ships or from factories close to rivers. There is no doubt, however, that in areas of intensive recreational activities, litter from participants can contribute to localised problems.

Food and equipment packaging tends to be the most commonly discarded item connected to recreational activities. These can enter the marine environment either because of deliberate littering or from overflowing or inappropriately designed waste bins.

The very characteristics that make plastic so useful - strength, durability and light weight - tend to make it the most persistent and visible form of rubbish. Not only is plastic litter unsightly, it can be dangerous to birds and animals. Birds and fish can often mistake plastic floating in the water for food and, once ingested, it can cause severe internal injuries. Wildlife can also become caught up in discarded plastic, with four pack plastic holders being a particular problem.


Discarded paper is largely an aesthetic issue and is unlikely to have any significant environmental impacts on features or their associated flora and fauna.

Glass Bottles and Jars

Discarded glass containers are unlikely to cause direct damage to a marine feature, but can ignite fires in the vicinity of a feature. This can have a severe effect on the vegetation and species in those areas. In addition, glass and broken glass can be hazardous to small mammals which live in the vicinity of the designated areas.

Dog Faeces

Dog walking is one of the most popular recreational activities in coastal areas. The problems associated with dog faeces are largely an amenity issue and cause little or no significant impacts to marine features.

Angling Line and Lead Weights

Accidentally or deliberately discarded nylon line and netting have no impacts on the geomorphology of designated habitats but can have an impact on designated species, such as seals, particularly in the vicinity of typical haul out sites. Line and equipment discarded in intertidal areas can also adversely affect wading birds by becoming entangled around their legs. Ingested lead weights can cause serious illness in marine wildlife.

Discarded Shotgun Cartridges

Spent shotgun cartridges from wildfowling and other hunting activities are unlikely to have any significant impact on marine features, other than those related to amenity, although they may cause impacts to wildlife if ingested.


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