Coastal littering is an activity that results in waste material being left by people on the shoreline and/or in the water. People putting inappropriate material (fat, cotton-buds, wet-wipes) down toilets and drains is also of concern as this can cause sewer blockages, which can result in sewer flooding leading to discharges of raw sewerage into watercourses, degrading water quality. Littering material can vary greatly in type and size, but by far the most damaging to the environment are nonbiodegradable plastics; small pieces of plastic material are also more difficult to pick up in beach cleans and can be ingested by animals.
Littering nationally is of great concern, as well as in the Solent. The Solent Forum News Service reports on evidence monthly and in 2018 the Solent Forum produced a report on the extent of littering in the Solent.
The affect of littering in the Solent, particularly by plastics, is yet to be fully determined, although there is enough national evidence to show that plastic litter damages marine organisms. We do not currently know how litter affects the protected Solent European Marine Sites (SEMS) habitats and species. The birds in the Solent may not necessarily ingest larger plastic pieces when feeding, but may be affected by the breakdown of plastic products into microplastics. Some birds and other species may be affected by microplastic bio-accumulation. The water chemistry of the Solent could also be affected by the accumulation of plastics. The SEMS Annual Survey, managed by the Solent Forum, has identified that there are concerns amongst some Statutory Authorities (Relevant Authorities to SEMS) in the Solent about littering. There have been reports of build-ups of litter in Langstone Harbour and Chessel Bay on the River Itchen. In Langstone Harbour, there was an increase in the amount of plastic food and drinks packaging. Condition Assessments of designated sites in the Solent do show a failure in water quality, in particular from nutrient loadings. It is likely that the actions of residents in their homes, when flushing inappropriate materials down the drains, will exacerbate nutrient loading in the sewer system, due to sewer blockages, resulting in raw sewage overflows into the marine environment.
Litter can also impact on the leisure marine industry and fisheries. Boat users can experience entangled propellers, entangled anchors, entangled rudders and blocked intake pipes and valves. Harbours and ports will also have to pay for the removal of litter accumulated. Plastic litter can impact on fisheries, reducing and damaging catches as well as damaging vessels. The types of litter that are most frequently caught in fishing gear are ropes and other plastics. The Solent European Marines Sites (SEMS) web page on litter provides additional information on the impacts of litter on designated sites.
The following links show some of the key initiatives: