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The MCS has a track record of staging clean-ups using volunteers

Waitrose is donating £500,000 from its plastic carrier bag funds to help a marine life charity organise beach and river clean-ups.

The Marine Conservation Society will stage 1,000 clean-ups over the coming year to rid public areas of plastic, and for the first time will aim to sort and recycle the majority of rubbish collected.

The donation marks the first step in Waitrose’s plans to donate £1m to tackling plastic pollution.

The project will kick off with an event branded The Waitrose Beach and River Clean-up, which will run over the weekend of 15 to 18 September.

The MCS has a track record of staging clean-ups using volunteers, but hopes this will be its biggest year ever, with a target of attracting more than 10,000 participants.

The charity’s 2016 Great British Beach Clean saw 6,000 volunteers collect 268,384 individual items of litter at 364 events.

Waitrose’s sponsorship of the events forms part of its long-running efforts to reduce plastic pollution. Last year, the retailer committed to stop selling products containing microbeads and switched its cotton buds from plastic to paper stem.

Waitrose has also worked with the MSC on its sustainable seafood programme.

“The marine environment is important to all of us so the MCS beach and river cleans - with their focus on reducing pollution from materials such as plastics - were an obvious choice when thinking where to donate some of our plastic carrier bag funds,” said Tor Harris, head of responsible sourcing and sustainability at Waitrose.

“We’re excited to invite our customers and partners to take part in local coast and river cleans to improve the areas for wildlife and all of us.”