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Environment

This Map Reveals the Hotspots for 'Hidden' Litter on Scotland's Beaches


Why Global Citizens Should Care 
The UN’s Global Goals call for action to improve life below water, and to create cities and communities that are sustainable. Initiatives like the SCRAPbook demonstrate the scale of the marine litter problem, and now it’s up to us to clean up existing litter hotspots, and to stop more forming. You can join us by taking action here

A new online map project is aiming to get volunteers across Scotland involved in the fight against marine litter. 

The Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography (SCRAPbook) is up and running, and is working hard to identify hotspots for “hidden” litter along Scotland’s coastline. 

Aerial photographs have been taken along thousands of miles of Scottish beaches, and it’s hoped it will inspire a community-led response to help deal with the problem. 

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The photographs have now been uploaded to the internet, and plotted on a map of Scotland. The severity of the litter problem in each location is then ranked from one to five — with five being the worst. 

The worst spots are highlighted in red on the map, and include Clanyard Bay and Glasserton in Dumfries, and Galloway and Red Point in the north west Highlands, according to the Scotsman

And the images — taken by pilots from Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol — are helping to recognise the scale of the litter problem, even in areas that are normally out of public view. 

“In the worst areas it is absolutely at industrial levels, with plastic blasted up the hills from the coast where it’s been blown,” said Archie Liggat, chairman of Sky Watch. 

“There are hundreds and hundreds of large plastic barrels and crates all over the place, and when there is any large plastic litter visible at all there’s usually a significant amount of smaller stuff too,” he added. 

The map is the brainchild of three charities: the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol, and the Moray Firth Partnership, which reportedly came up with the original idea. 

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The charities hope the map, which can be accessed by anyone, will prove to be an “invaluable tool” in combatting the plastic that’s polluting our marine environment, both in Britain and around the world. 

Globally, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year. That’s similar to emptying a rubbish truck of plastic into the sea every minute. And it’s putting the world on a pretty terrifying trajectory, with estimates claiming that if things don’t change, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. 

Richard Harrington, from MCS, said there is a lot of waste along Scotland’s coastlines that “people simply aren’t seeing," according to the Scotsman.

“It’s largely hidden from view, but there are huge volumes of material in some of the most remote coves and on inaccessible beaches that will be a real challenge to move,” he said. 

Now the worst sites have been located, it’s hoped that volunteers and organisations can target their clean-up efforts more efficiently. 

And MCS is already rallying the troops, calling for volunteers across the country to get involved in its Great British Beach Clean on Sept. 14-17. 

“If there are people who can get to some of the beaches that have been pinpointed by these photographs, that would be great,” added Harrington. 

But while the map will be useful in highlighting the areas that need cleaning up, it’s also hoped that it will stop plastic pollution before it becomes a problem too. 

“We absolutely need to prevent the litter getting into the system,” Sophie Green, technical co-ordinator of the SCRAPbook scheme, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme. “But at the stage we are at, we also need to take efforts to understand why it is there, how it is getting there, and how to get rid of it.” 

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Mairi Gougeon, Scotland’s minister for rural affairs and the natural environment, added: “Litter washed up on our coastline is a scourge that harms our natural environment, both in the sea and on land. By collating this information we can better understand where further attention needs to be focused in our continuing efforts to clean up our beautiful coastline.” 

The launch of the SCRAPbook project follows Scotland’s first summit on cutting down marine litter, which was hosted in June, in Oban. 

The summit — organised by the Scottish government — brought together retailers, environmental groups, and manufacturers to find new ways of reducing plastic in Scotland’s marine environment.