(CNN) — From craggy cliffs to broad sandy beaches, Britain is rightly proud of its thousands of miles of shoreline.
But campaigners say great stretches of it are now under threat from a tide of trash that’s endangering wildlife and could impact visitors.
The UK’s Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has published the results of its annual “big clean up,” which sees hundreds of volunteers take to the country’s beaches armed with garbage bags.
The event, last September, saw more than 223,400 individual pieces of trash scooped from the shoreline — the largest haul since the cleanups began 20 years ago.
Among the more bizarre items recovered were a French bulletproof vest, an unopened packet of bacon, a brass candlestick and, disturbingly, a set of dentures.
Ordinary people were seen as the biggest shoreline spoilers — blamed for nearly 40% of the trash washing up or blowing onto beaches.
Commercial and recreational fishing, shipping and sewage outlets are also blamed for detritus including nets, floats, used diapers and syringes.
Lauren Eyles of MCS says the quantity of litter found was “disheartening.”
“This is a disgusting tide of litter which is threatening the safety of beach visitors both human and animal. It’s coming in from the sea, being blown from the land or simply being dumped and dropped,” she said in a statement.
MCS volunteers tackled more than 200 stretches of coast, which have been ranked from dirtiest to cleanest in terms of the number of sacks of trash filled.
The worst offender was identified as Holes Bay, a roadside shore near the southern English town of Dorset, from which 60 sacks were filled.
Chesil Cover Shore, also near Poole, came second on the list, with 50 sacks.
However, several other beaches on the same area of coastline were considerably cleaner, including a stretch of Chesil Beach that generated just 60 sacks.
A tourism official in Poole told CNN that, despite MCS trash haul, the coastline around the city has some of Britain’s cleanest beaches.
This includes Sandbanks, a wealthy enclave whose groomed sandy shore has been certified spotless by a European “blue flag” award for a record 26 successive years.
Of those tackled by MCS volunteers, the cleanest was identified as Langland Bay, near the Welsh city of Swansea, which yielded just a quarter of a sack of trash.
The top five cleanest also included: Vazon South, Guernsey; Seatown, Dorset; Goring, West Sussex; and Ferring, West Sussex.
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