Scottish Daily Mail

Pristine beach marred with 32 stone of plastic

- By Marlene Lenthang

ITS spectacula­r sands and towering dunes make it one of the UK’s most stunning beaches.

But its location in the far north-west of Scotland is no protection against a tide of plastic originatin­g from as far afield as Russia and Canada.

During a new year clean-up, more than 450lb, or 32 stone, of the waste was recovered at Balnakeil beach, near Durness, in Sutherland.

The haul included plastic bottles, fishing nets, handwash containers and even a 30year-old football-themed cigarette lighter.

There were also lotion bottles from Russia, jam containers from Newfoundla­nd, yogurt cups from Spain and mustard bottles from Iceland in the rubbish that drifted to the shore via ocean currents.

The clean-up was arranged by Durness Active Health, organisers of the Cape Wrath Challenge running festival. They teamed up with Dr Julien Moreau of PlasticAtB­ay, which aims to fight the problem of waste plastics polluting the sea and beaches along the north-west Highlands.

Trustee at Durness Active Health Kevin Arrowsmith said: ‘Amazingly, 206kg (454lb) of plastic was removed from the beach. Most of it was nets and ropes which could not be recycled.

‘However, the remaining waste will be recycled including 15.5kg (34lb) of hard plastic and 3kg (6.6lb) of plastic bottles. These will go to a special ocean plastic bottle recycling centre.

‘In total, 5.5kg (12lb) of functional fishing gear was also collected and will be donated locally.

‘There were items identified from Russia, Newfoundla­nd, Spain and Iceland in the exotic discoverie­s. The dirtiest find was a bottle filled with engine oil and lots of burned plastics.’

Tourism organisati­on VisitScotl­and describes Balnakeil beach – on the route of the booming North Coast 500 road tour – as ‘a spectacula­r, clean beach which is large and accessible and offers endless opportunit­ies to discover and explore.’

Throughout 2017, the Scottish Daily Mail campaigned vigorously to introduce a bottle deposit scheme for Scotland.

The system would see customers charged a small deposit which would be refunded when the bottle is recycled – vastly cutting down on the amount of plastic in circulatio­n.

Drinking bottles, and the tiny pellets of raw plastic from which they are formed, are a major source of coastline pollution.

Animals often mistake plastic for food, meaning the material enters the food chain.

Last February Coca-Cola, the world’s largest drinks manufactur­er, threw its weight behind a deposit scheme for both bottles and cans in Scotland. The Scottish Government has now backed the Mail’s campaign, saying a deposit return scheme could be introduced as early as 2019.

Last week we also told how pubs, restaurant­s and fast-food outlets could be banned from using plastic straws. They are used for an average of only 20 minutes but take 500 years to decompose.

Geophysici­st Dr Moreau said that two days ago he found a plastic Danish football-themed lighter from 1986 on Balnakeil beach.

‘The amount of plastic being washed up is shocking. Every time we clean up the beach more comes in with the next storm. Since May, 1,700kg (3,748lb) of plastic has been collected on that one beach alone,’ said Dr Moreau, who lives in Durness.

‘Today, you will hardly find an earth, water or air body, nor an organism, without plastic.

‘Our craving for plastics has resulted in Earth being entirely smeared with the substance. Worst of all, the production of plastic is still growing exponentia­lly.’

He added: ‘Visiting tourists and residents of the beautiful northwest of Scotland might be absorbed by the majesty of the landscapes, the brutality of the sea and the soothing comfort of all the shades of light and colour.

‘ However, i f you l ook more closely, you will see a lot of plastic, some chucked out on the road, or blown by the wind and caught in the fences, as well as piling up on our sumptuous beaches.

‘Polluting is a crime and the law needs to be enforced. We also have to massively clean our shores so that the pollution does not sink and become unrecovera­ble.

‘We don’t have ten years to act, change must happen now.

‘Money will not solve this, behaviour must change and product design should be rethought.’

 ??  ?? Stunning: Balnakeil beach near Durness
Stunning: Balnakeil beach near Durness
 ??  ?? Beach clean-up: Dr Julien Moreau
Beach clean-up: Dr Julien Moreau

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