1,000 tons of plastic f lushed to sea each year off Scots coast
A THOUSAND tons of plastic litter is clogging up Scotland’s seas each year, a report has revealed.
New research has laid bare the staggering scale of the menace posed by our throwaway culture.
The study, by the Scottish Government body Marine Scotland Science, has estimated for the first time the amount of plastic pollution washing into our Atlantic and North Sea waters and where it comes from.
Its conclusions provide an alarming insight into society’s reliance on plastic and the potential damage being done to the marine environment.
In all, 200 million pieces of macroplastics (measuring more than 5 millimetres) are flushed into the seas around Scotland through our rivers, the majority of it via the Clyde and Forth.
A further 8million fragments are washed in from outside while 4million more are dumped into the water by the fishing industry, which equates to a total 1,060 tons of rubbish.
Between 50 and 220 tons are lifted by volunteers on beach cleans – such as those organised as part of the Daily Mail’s Great Plastic Pick Up.
However, vast amounts are taken by currents towards the Arctic, down towards England or simply sink to the sea bed.
A further 24.7 billion specks of microplastics (measuring less than 5mm) – weighing 251 tons – also contaminate our coastal waters with nearly half of it settling beneath the waves, where it enters the marine food chain.
A Marine Conservation Society spokesman said: ‘Inroads are being made where behaviours are changing. We find far fewer single-use plastic carriers on Scottish beaches since the introduction of the 5p charge.
We believe an all-inclusive deposit return system in Scotland will have the same result on bottles and cans. More beach cleans are taking place.
‘The message is getting through but there’s still a long way to go.’
Dr Richard Dixon, director of the charity Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: ‘These shocking figures show the huge amount of plastic waste which we casually chuck away but then ends up polluting the sea, littering our beaches and putting wildlife in danger.
‘All of us need to do better at cutting down on plastic but shops and manufacturers need to try much harder at reducing the amount of plastic they are forcing us to take home.’ Marine
Scotland Science’s study – compiled by oceanographer Dr Bill Turrell – pulls together data and evidence to produce an authoritative picture of Scotland’s plastic pollution problem.
It includes particles driven in and out of our waters by the currents and winds plus those added by the flow of rivers and removed by human hand too.
The study, published this week in Marine Pollution Bulletin, found the east coast is more heavily affected each year, with 709 tons of plastics compared with 601 tons on the west.
Around half drifts north and south but the remainder persists in the immediate environment.
The major contributor on both coasts is litter washed out from the Central Belt – 830 tons flushed into the seas through the Clyde and Forth estuaries.
The study states: ‘More than 90 per cent of plastic in Scottish seas typically come from Scottish littering on land [which] puts about 1,000 tons of macroplastic into seas each year.’
‘Huge amount of waste’