Nearly half of adults admit to littering – with 49% claiming to have left waste behind on a beach including drinks cans, cigarette butts, and crisp packets.
Only one in seven (14%) would pick up rubbish if they saw it in the street, while 30% would clear it up from a beach, and just 19% would do so outside their own workplace.
The poll, of 2,000 adults, found that 37% would avoid picking it up for fear it would be “dirty”, while 40% would not want to catch germs from it.
However, a third of adults (32%) admit they feel guilty about having littered in the past – with 43% worried that rubbish is ruining our coastal landscapes.
Among the top reasons for dropping waste are laziness, the mindset that it's someone else's problem – and lack of public bins.
But the areas that people are most likely to make an effort to help clear up are the seaside (30%), walking trails (24%), and parks (23%).
The study was commissioned by Cornish-based lager brand korev, whose spokesman said: “It’s great to see people caring so much for the beach, but it’s also a shame to see how many admit to leaving their rubbish behind.
“No matter whether you are by the sea, or a town centre, dropping litter can be harmful for the environment, and more needs to be done to encourage keeping our landscape free of rubbish.
“We are all in this together, it’s not just one person’s job to clean our streets and beaches – we should be enjoying ourselves responsibly.
“Keeping our streets clean is a work in progress, and we understand the reservations around not picking up someone else’s waste.”
The study also found that if they dropped waste, while many would pick it up and either take it home or find a bin, 16% would leave it on the floor.
And 15% would even pretend they hadn’t noticed that it had been dropped.
But two-thirds (67%) of those polled think the person who dropped the rubbish should be responsible for picking it up.
It also emerged over half (52%) believe littering is worse in the summer, as people tend to gather more in big groups.
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And having spent more time in their local area during the pandemic, 33% are now more conscious about looking after it.
Almost a third (28%) have been involved in a beach clean, while a quarter have taken part in a litter pick – and 14% would like to.
And 13% said picking up litter makes them feel good for a few hours, according to the study, conducted via OnePoll.
Lizzie Prior, from the Marine Conservation Society, which is supported by korev, said: “We’ve been running beach cleans for nearly 30 years, gathering data on what’s polluting our beaches across the UK.
“At last year’s Great British Beach Clean, a massive 75% of litter collected was made of plastic or polystyrene.
“Pollution isn’t just unpleasant to see when you’re enjoying the beach or your local park – it’s polluting our ocean and putting animals in harm’s way.
“By joining a beach clean you can be part of positive change – and by taking your litter with you, picking up any litter you see while out, and joining a beach clean, we can turn the tide on pollution.”
Following the findings, korev is launching an interactive pop-up bar that encourages beachgoers to “pay with plastic”, or other litter that may otherwise be left behind on our coastlines.
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