On the 21st June we headed up to the North West of Scotland to meet with Julien at Plastic@Bay (https://www.plasticatbay.org). Julien has been leading the charge on tackling marine plastic pollution in the region for the last five years.
Durness and the surrounding areas are particularly badly hit with plastic waste, due to strong currents washing plastic ashore. Julien works tirelessly to clean the beaches with his team (Joan and Conor) and to upcycle whats found, giving it a second life.
22nd June 2021 - Balnakeil Bay, Durness
I have been joined by Winnie Brook-Young, an incredible photographer from Skye, who is going to be capturing some of the moments over the next few days.
We slept in the dunes behind Balnakeil Bay last night - a very wet and windy night. This morning we are working with Conor to clean the beach along Balnakeil.
Balnakeil is close to Cape Wrath (Ministry of Defence base) and there is lots of parachute paraphernalia, flares and shells that wash up from their training and testing. There is also lots of broken up hard plastics and microplastics in the sand that have become embedded overtime. We are told there could be as much as 20 tonnes of microplastics in the sand. This has a huge knock on effect leaching chemicals into the flora and fauna.
We spent the afternoon in Juliens workshop lab testing different plastics and learning from him. Turns out there's a much easier and better way to finish plastic. Up until now I have learnt everything through trial and error and the internet, it's been amazing to sit down with someone who is so knowledgable on the subject and get advice from.
That evening we ended up watching the Scotland vs. Croatia football game in the only bar for 150km. Note to self: don't wear an England football shirt.
23rd June 2021 - Scourie
Winnie, Conor and I drove 45 mins down to Scourie to check out a cove which apparently had a lot of plastic on.
I couldn't believe what we came across. From afar the beach was so beautiful, but up close it was like a dump site. You couldn't see the pebbles on the beach there was so much rubbish.
This cove is facing South West so it was likely to have a lot of pollution due to the direction of the currents bringing plastic ashore. There was so much waste you could spend weeks cleaning it and you wouldn't make a dent. Most of what we found (80%) was old commercial fishing gear and ropes.
We dug into the soil behind the beach and found microplastics and ropes deep within the layers - they had become embedded in the soil over time. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. How has this material become so widespread and out of control?
The scary realisation was how many coves along the North West coast had exactly the same (in some cases worse) plastic pollution and that this was a minority compared to what is still in the ocean.
Unfortunately, in 6-12 months the beaches will be full again with plastic. How can this be sustainable? There needs to be regulations put in place for commercial fishing and we need to all personally make huge behavioural changes to stop this consumption.
24th June 2021 - Coigach
Julien suggested we go to a few beaches around Coigach that get particularly badly hit. They ended up being similar to Scourie in terms of volume of waste. Because the coves are steep and hard to access it make removal of the waste really difficult. Plastic@Bay need government support and funding so they're able to have proper equipment to clean and remove pollution from these areas - they need a boat or air support.
25th June 2021 - Oldshoremore