DISCARDED masks and PPE have washed up on the county’s beaches amid a dramatic increase in litter under the coronavirus lockdown.

On a single day in June, 11 tonnes of rubbish was left on Brighton and Hove’s shore.

According to Sussex Wildlife Trust, which regularly organises beach cleans, this was the most it has ever collected in a single day, and is nearly four times the summer average.

Ella Garrud, the charity’s Living Seas Officer, said single use surgical masks and plastic gloves are now being found along the coast.

The Argus:

Disposable masks are believed to have a lifespan of at least 450 years, she warned.

She said: “As coronavirus lockdown measures continue to ease, there has been a noticeable spike in the amount of rubbish being left on beaches as more people are able to spend more time at the coast.

“Often, incoming tides will wash a lot of waste into the sea where it immediately becomes a threat to marine life. It is therefore vital that everyone takes home their litter and disposes of it properly.

“With bins overflowing with rubbish, many people are choosing to simply leave their litter behind.

The Argus:

“Although many councils employ people specifically to help clean beaches, it is impossible for them to collect everything.”

Brighton and Hove City Council is now issuing £150 on the spot fines for anyone who drops or leaves litter. It has instructed officers to patrol the beach from 9am until 7pm every day.

Ella said plastic waste was “a huge problem” because it does not degrade. It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that marine animals often end up ingesting.

She said this can block their digestive tracts, damage their internal organs and cause starvation.

She added that plastic pollution can also injure and kill marine animals that become entangled.

Sussex Wildlife Trust regularly combs the county’s beaches to remove harmful plastic. Last year, the charity and volunteers collected 360 kg of litter from ten different sites along the coast. There were 18,993 individual pieces of litter, and the majority of it was plastic.

Sussex Wildlife Trust said people can help by not buying single use plastics, turning instead to canvas bags, wooden toothbrushes and metal water bottles.

The charity said recyclable plastics are preferable, and it is important they go in the right bin. The Trust said beachgoers should make sure they pick up their own litter, and encouraged people to carry out a quick clean before they leave. Visit www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk.