A bird’s eye view of litter around our coastline

Eyemouth lifeboat picked up some of the more heavy pieces of litter (including bicycles) from Killiedraughts Beach during last year's beach clean-up.
Eyemouth lifeboat picked up some of the more heavy pieces of litter (including bicycles) from Killiedraughts Beach during last year's beach clean-up.

A map of the extent of litter around the Scottish coastline means volunteers can target beach clean-ups and litter survey work more accurately.

SCRAPbook - Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography - is a collaboration between three charities, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol and the Moray Firth Partnership.

It involves pilots and observers taking to the skies to photograph areas of the coastline where they spot litter or pollution.

Debris photographed in many of Berwickshire bays and coves was the same - planks of wood washed up on shore. A ship lost some of its cargo of wood in severe weather in March this year and the planks have been washed ashore from St Andrews to Yorkshire.

The map can be used by anyone keen to tackle a bit of the coast the pilots have found litter on, and kayak clubs can help get to those hard to reach areas. Schools, groups, water sports clubs and councils are all being urged to use the website - www.scrapbook.org.uk - to find out the worst affected areas.

Archie Liggat, Sky Watch chairman, says the charity’s pilots get a bird’s eye view of the country’s coastline.

“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.

“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.”

Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland conservation officer, coordinates the mobilisation of thousands of volunteers around the Scottish coastline to clean up beaches and record the litter they find as part of the charity’s Beachwatch programme, but up until now, many kilometres of Scotland’s coastline have never been cleaned.

“With nearly 10,000 kilometres making up Scotland’s mainland coast we know there are many stretches of beach that have had no recorded clean up. SCRAPbook will help address that, and provide us with new information that will be crucial to highlight to government and industry what steps we need to be taken next in the fight against marine litter.”

The Minister for Rural Affairs & the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon said: “Litter washed up on our coastline is a scourge that harms our natural environment, both in the sea and on land. That is why I welcome this exciting project that enables the extent of litter around our coastline to be proactively mapped. 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.”