Campaigners are calling for a tax on single-use plastics as beach litter rises by 10 per cent year on year.

The Great British Beach Clean sees an army of volunteers head out to clean up our coastline, including in Dorset, and all items found are recorded.

The Marine Conservation Society said this year's 6,944 volunteer beach cleaners picked up record amounts of litter from 339 UK beaches – on average, a staggering 718 bits of rubbish from every 100 metres cleaned.

This is a 10 per cent rise in the amount of beach litter picked up compared to 2016.

Food and drinks litter accounts for one in five items of all rubbish found on beaches, and the charity said now is the time to act.

The issue has been high in the public consciousness since heartbreaking footage was screened on Blue Planet 2, narrated by David Attenborough, of a whale cradling its calf, which is thought to have died from drinking its mother's polluted milk.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax tackled the topic in his Dorset Echo column last week, noting that environment secretary Michael Gove has promised urgent changes.

Data from the Great British Beach Clean also revealed a 94 per cent rise in the number of wet wipes found on UK beaches in a single year. MCS has been running a campaign to urge high street retailers to better label products that consumers believe can be flushed down the loo. It's also preparing to hand in a 10,000 name petition to the wet wipe industry body EDANA asking them to ensure members remove plastic from their flushable products and that flushable wipes comply with UK Water Industry standards.

Lizzie Prior, MCS beach and river clean project officer, said: "The 5p single-use carrier bag charge has made a massive difference to the number of plastic bags entering our seas. If a levy was placed on single use plastic such as straws, stirrers, cutlery, cups and cup lids, we're confident that we'd find fewer of these items on our beaches.”

The charity's CEO Sandy Luk added: “Our beach clean evidence shows a shocking rise in the amount of litter this year. Our oceans are choking in plastic. We urgently need a levy on single use plastic as a first step.”