You won’t believe me … the star we call the sun has been visiting Scotland and it has been hanging around for almost a month! Whilst I usually melt in the sun it pleases me that if you’ve been here on holiday you will see Scotland in an even more beautiful light. It doesn’t rain all the time Scotland.
Today though, I’m writing about something slightly different to my usual happier magical stories about Scotland. It’s about raising awareness on how us humans are hurting this planet we call our home. There’s no other one like it as far as I know. We’re very unique, don’t you think?
You might have already guessed, I love Scotland and like to share her beauty through my photos and stories. What you don’t see is that when I’m out and about I often see rubbish left lying around our countryside, woodlands, mountains and beaches. I’ve had to pick up rubbish before I take a photograph or video clip many times.
I care about our preserving our planet and want to be reassured that my children and their children will live long healthy lives here.
#ShoreYouCare beach clean
It all began when my friend Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland organised a #ShoreYouCare beach clean and nurdle hunt at North Queensferry in Fife on Saturday 2 June 2018.
Alan and I were both invited to the event where we also joined inspiring Scotland content creators. I’ve only ever followed some of these amazing bloggers, vloggers and instagrammers online, so to meet some of them in person was quite exciting.
The event was being supported by these amazing organisations and local businesses:
- DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh, Queensferry Crossing
- Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer, Marine Conservation Society UK
- Alasdair Neilson, Project Manager, FIDRA
- Robbie Blyth, Operations Manager, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust
- Forth Boat Tours, South Queensferry
- Welcome to Fife local tourism agency
We all met up at the DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh who kindly hosted the event. The hotel looked really nice with beautiful views across to the new Queensferry Crossing bridge.
I usually prefer landscapes to townscapes, but this bridge was so intriguing. It looked like something from a futuristic science fiction movie. In fact there are three forth bridges of different ages sitting in a row across the Firth of Forth. The most famous one being the Forth Rail Bridge. I instantly decided I’d love to come back and explore this part of Scotland.
As we walked into the hotel I must admit I was a little nervous. Then I saw a friendly face, Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland. We’d met up a few weeks earlier to visit Inchcailloch Island on Loch Lomond. We were on a bluebell hunt that day and I’m pleased to say that we found an abundance of them! Watch my video of our visit to Inchcailloch Island.
As people started to arrive and we got chatting I started to relax a little. I never got to speak to everyone as it was time to sit and listen to presentations from Catherine Gemmell, Marine Conservation Society UK and Alasdair Neilson, FIDRA. They both helped us understand what issues we were facing with plastics and general waste washing up on our coastline. Nurdles and cotton buds are the worst!
After the educational and interesting presentations, we walked down to Ferrycraigs, North Queensferry where we gathered into small groups to pick up rubbish and look for nurdles.
As well as bagging what we found it was important to record everything too. This helps break down the most common items washed up and hopefully source the items back to manufacturers.
To be honest, at first I didn’t see anything on the rocky shore, but when I dug deeper the evidence was staring right at me.
The plastic cotton bud sticks we were all looking at, and picking up, had been flushed down someone’s toilet, through gods know what, ending up in our ocean, washed up on this beach and now at our feet. Yuck!
I personally don’t flush cotton buds, so it was a real surprise to me that our beaches are being polluted with them. I now make sure that I buy the paper stemmed buds. Please don’t flush cotton buds down the toilet!
We gathered all types of rubbish, but it was time to check out the nurdles. These might look like tiny pieces of glass or colourful stones but they’re not. Honestly, they were everywhere and very difficult to pick up with gloves on.
What are nurdles?
I’d never heard of a nurdle before. Going on a nurdle hunt sounded quite intriguing though. I was thinking it would be like searching for colourful smooth sea glass which I love finding and taking home.
Sadly, they are small pellets of plastic (2-3mm) used in the manufacturing of plastic products. They can end up down our drains because of industry spills and then travel into our ocean.
Being the same shape and size of fish eggs they can be mistaken for food by marine life who can die as a result of eating them. Nurdles, and the toxins coating them, can also enter our food chain.
I recently watched this beautiful, but sad video ‘Albatross the Film‘ showing what plastic pollution is doing to our wildlife.
Plastics and rubbish collected
In over an hour, covering a 100m by 4m stretch of beach, 35 of us collected:
- 1,238 items (plastics, polystyrene, plastic bottles and caps, sanitary waste and more)
- 12kg in weight
- 322 cotton buds
- Endless nurdles
Download the beach watch report to see the full breakdown.
What an amazing group of fun and passionate people. We all have different audiences and unique ways of promoting Scotland … and beyond.
We had a break for lunch and enjoyed our packed lunch on the beach. This is a short timelapse of the Queensferry Crossing.
We returned to the hotel for a presentation from Robbie Blyth, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.
It’s not just our beaches that are being littered, our countryside, towns and cities are too. It’s everywhere.
We have the right to roam in Scotland but we all need to act responsibly. If you’re not sure what you can or can’t do then have a look at Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code. Please always use bins for your waste. If you’re not near one, take it home and dispose of it there.
It’s also about educating our children on how to dispose of their waste responsibly. One example Robbie mentioned is that when children are being educated in primary school about their bodies and hormonal changes, this would be the perfect time to also advise on how to responsibly dispose of sanitary waste and other intimate protective products. Please don’t flush them down the toilet.
When I was young …
When I was young we didn’t have as much waste as we do now. I remember the ginger man (not a red head) would deliver our bottles of fizzy juice and take the empty bottles back. We also had a bottle return service. Ten pence cash back if we returned them to a shop.
The milk man would also deliver our bottles of milk and take the empty ones back. Then there was the rag man who would drive down our street shouting “Rags”. If I remember right, he would take our old unwanted clothes and sometimes he would give you a toy.
I only ever remember using soap bars to wash … no waste there. It lasted for ages then eventually disappeared completely.
How long it can take for our waste to decompose
This was a real eye opener. We all took part in a challenge to guess how long it takes for our waste and some plastics to decompose.
- Months/years – paper
- 2-5 years – cardboard
- 4 years – balloon
- 20-50+ years – plastic carrier bag
- 450 years – drinks can
- 500 years – disposable nappy
- 450-1000 years – plastic drink bottle
This is just a small portion of our waste … can you imagine what it must look like in our oceans, countryside, towns, cities and even our landfill sites. Then think how long it will stay there…
Cruise with Forth Boat Tours
After our beach clean event we crossed the bridge to South Queensferry for a cruise with Forth Boat Tours.
Queensferry looked like a lovely little town with cobbled streets and historical buildings. I also never knew there were so many little islands in the Firth of Forth. Many of them have military ruins on them.
We sailed underneath the amazing three bridges with a quick stop at Inchcolm Island to pick up some passengers. I plan to return to Inchcolm Island soon. There’s an old abbey ruin to explore … just what I love.
We saw two seals close up from the boat and a few puffins were also pointed out to us.
It was watching the wildlife that made me think about our plastic pollution and what damage it’s doing.
It was a really interesting cruise with Forth Boat Tours. Excellent commentary and you can also enjoy a drink and snack from the bar. I’d definitely recommend it.
How we can help
There are so many things we can do to help reduce plastic ending up on our shore:
- The 3Ps – only flush Pee, Poo, Paper (toilet paper)
- Never flush wipes, even if they say they are flushable
- Challenge yourself to try the #GOPlasticFree for the month of July
- Take part in your local beach clean
- Share your knowledge and educate others to dispose of their waste responsibly
Find out more on the Marine Conservation Society UK website.
In my mind, I feel that life that has become very fast paced. We’re trying to fit too many things into our lives. Convenience has been handed to us to help with our busy lifestyles.
I’m guilty myself for buying pre-packed convenience food that has a plastic wrapper and tray, sometimes both can’t be recycled. It can be confusing what I can or can’t recycle. Every council has different guidelines. If I’m not sure I put it in my green waste bin and this goes to landfill.
#GOPlasticFree challenge in July
I’m certainly more aware of my own plastic usage now and already thinking of ways to reduce it. I’ve signed up for my first local beach clean and I’m going to sign up for the #GOPlasticFree for the month of July.
I know this will be difficult for me, I’ll cut down as much as I can. If anything, it will be a learning curve. I’ll do my part, however small it is, in reducing my own waste. I’ll hopefully save some money too!
Watch my #ShoreYouCare video
Watch my short video of our beach clean and boat tour.
Thanks for reading