Tackling marine litter is a global challenge, but experts agree that if we all do our bit, we can turn the tide. As we enter Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, there are a host of simple things you can do to help keep Scotland's beaches clean and beautiful. So how can you help?

It's no secret that plastic waste is bad for the environment, taking centuries to degrade, killing animals and creating an eyesore on our beaches. As well as being places to enjoy, Scotland's beaches are precious ecosystems - we must act responsibly to protect them. Next time you plan a trip to the beach, keep these things in mind.

Cruden Bay

1. Collect your litter

A day at the beach often means a picnic. Remember to bring a designated bag for your waste, and any other litter you find, as this will make it easier to collect and dispose of when you're ready to go. If you're able to take it home and recycle everything, even better. It is estimated that up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic gets into the sea each year - the scale of the problem is huge. Much of this litter - around 80% - comes from land, so it's important we stop the cycle.

2. Be a conscious shopper

When you're shopping for your picnic, buy smart. Take a reusable water bottle and tubs for your food. Try to avoid things wrapped in single use plastic.

3. Don't feed the animals

Although it might seem like a nice idea, it's important not to feed the animals at the beach. This can disrupt the ecosystem, make animals sick and alter their natural behaviour.

Stonehaven Harbour

4. Join a beach clean

Joining a beach clean is a great way to give something back. Team up with a local organisation like Keep Scotland Beautiful or the Marine Conservation Society and get yourself out there. The best way to tackle a beach clean is to start small and work together. Stay safe with gloves and sturdy footwear - and have fun! It's great working with like-minded people to help the environment. Take a look at upcoming clean up events to inspire you.

5. Eat sustainable seafood

To keep our seas as a healthy and sustainable source of food, it is important to eat seafood responsibly. One of the best ways to do this is to shop and eat locally, especially at seafood shacks and knowledgeable fishmongers. For more info on provenance, seasonal availability and minimising food miles take a look at Taste Our Best.

White Sands of Seilebost, Lewis

6. The clean-up starts at home

It's important to remember that what we put down our drains has a knock-on effect on the environment. Help protect our beaches by being mindful about what you put down the toilet or into the kitchen sink. Wet wipes, cotton buds, nappies and sanitary items should never be flushed down the toilet. Similarly, in the kitchen, excess fats, oils and greases should be put in a bin rather than down the drain. All of these 'unflushables' can cause blockages and overflows in the waste water system, which can be costly to fix. Find out more at Scottish Water or Keep Scotland Beautiful.

7. Spread the word!

Become an advocate like Greta Thunberg! Communicate positive messages on climate action to friends, family and whoever else will listen. We all love spending time by the sea, so do your bit to keep our beaches clean and beautiful. Find out more about marine litter and the campaigns you can get behind.

Planning a beach trip? Scotland has many award-winning beaches for you to choose from. Let's keep Scotland's beaches looking like this:

Camusdarach kayakers