Volunteers lead the fight against plastic in our seas and towns

The Haddow family help pick up litter of the beach at Killiesdraught.
The Haddow family help pick up litter of the beach at Killiesdraught.

Community efforts to clean up Berwickshire’s beaches and rid Eyemouth of plastics are starting to make an impact and the hope is that more people will join the campaign.

St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve have just completed their January beach clean programme and the local branch of Sea the Change is working towards making Eyemouth a plastics free community.

Eyemouth's Sea the Changes supporters want to rid the town of plastics and are aiming for 'plastic free' status.

Eyemouth's Sea the Changes supporters want to rid the town of plastics and are aiming for 'plastic free' status.

“We would like to thank all the dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers who attended each event, without their monumental effort the cleans would not be nearly as successful,” said Lyle Boyle, the marine reserve ranger.

“They fought the elements to collect and record the marine litter items which decorate our coastline, the wind nor the rain could falter their gusto.

“Over the four days a combined weight of 52.2kg was collected from the beaches of Coldingham, Linkim, Killiedraughts and Eyemouth. The total number of litter items removed from the four beaches equated to 1,760 of which 1,329 pieces were plastic, the plastic corresponding to 75.5% of all rubbish collected.

“Plastic remains to be the most ubiquitous and insidious marine litter item found within the marine reserve; it not only disturbs the natural beauty of the beaches, it compounds with other anthropogenic pollutants to pose serious health implications to marine species.”

The VMR has been collaborating with artist Julia Barton on her ‘Littoral Art Project’, which aims to investigate and spread awareness about marine plastics. Julia uses specific marine plastics to construct her “litter cubes” which will tour Scotland.

“We have been collecting fishing line, cable ties and cotton bud sticks to contribute to her cubes,” added Lyle. “The exhibition is set to make a tour of Scotland and will call in at Eyemouth once the litter cubes have been constructed.

The VMR is continuing its beach clean programme, with beach cleans occurring on March 18, and April 5 (Coldingham), April 6 (Linkim), April 7 (Killiedraughts) and April 8 (Eyemouth).

“We really want to increase the local presence within our cleans, so if you live in Berwickshire and want to help maintain our beaches and protect the marine life, come and join us!

“Additionally, the VMR is collaborating with Sea the Change and will be co-hosting environmental events such as the Great Global Nurdle Hunt on February 15, 10am at Coldingham beach and Divers against Debris on March 23, in Eyemouth.”

The Great Nurdle Hunt is the brainchild of East Lothian based environmental charity Fidra. It aims to end industrial plastic pellet or ‘nurdle’ pollution into Scottish seas.

Nurdles are small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil and billions are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products. Many end up washing up on our shores through spills and mishandling by industry. Unlike large pieces of plastic marine litter, nurdles are so small that they go largely unnoticed. However scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about their effect on our delicate marine ecosystem.

Sea the Change’s ‘Plastics Free Eyemouth campaign aims to bring the whole community together to meet the five ‘plastic free’ objectives as defined by the national campaign.

These include; getting local councils involved, working with local companies and businesses, involving community groups and individuals, creating a local steering group to continue the work and setting up community events so that folks can spread the word and simply have some fun with it all.

Locally the campaign by the not-for-profit organiasation Sea the Change, went live on social media just before the end of 2018 and it has been gaining ground ever since.

“The great news is that progress is already being made, with many of the local businesses, groups and members of the public being on board,” said local organiser Alice Fisher.

“At Eyemouth High school two students, Max O’Neil and Adam Holland, signed up as Sea The Change crew and have been leading efforts for change within the school. Their aim is for Eyemouth High School to achieve the status of ‘plastic free’.

“This title is awarded when a business or organisation eliminates at least three single-use plastic items as part of the ‘Plastic Free Communities’ campaign.

“Max and Adam report that already plastic cutlery has been eliminated, plastic wraps replaced by paper wraps, individual sauce sachets replaced with multi-use bottles and there has been a reduction in the use of single-use plastic bottles.

Alice Fisher, added: “We are delighted to see the community’s response to the changes that have been taking place in Eyemouth. There’s enough momentum in the community to make this a reality and we believe that by keeping it simple people feel more empowered to take action.

“It is important to emphasise that the idea is not to eliminate plastic completely, but to work towards replacing single-use items with available alternatives: bamboo cutlery, paper bags, refillable sauce bottles and salt and pepper grinders. These are all examples of alternatives that could be introduced quickly. Sea The Change hopes to continue to harness the energy and enthusiasm of local schools, businesses, community groups and members of the public. They also hope to see Scottish Borders Council leading by example in eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics from public buildings.”

Date of the next beach clean by St Abbs & Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve is March 18 followed by: Coldingham - April 5; Linkim - April 6; Killiedraughts - April 7; Eyemouth - April 8.