Tackling marine litter is a global challenge, especially in Scotland which boasts some of the best beaches in the world. But experts agree that if we all do our bit to keep the beach clean, we can turn the tide. As we enter the second phase of Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters 2020-21, there are things you can do to keep Scotland's beaches clean and beautiful.
Whether you are a local or a visitor, most would agree that Scotland's pristine sands and golden bays are great places to explore and help to restore wellbeing. Not only that, they are also precious eco-systems, supporting an incredible array of species.
That is why it is essential we take steps to defend against the plastic rubbish on beaches that washes up daily our shores, killing wildlife and damaging the natural beauty of Scotland's beaches.
Next time you plan a trip to the beach, remember - even a two-minute beach clean up during your visit can make a huge difference.
Here are some simple ways you can help.
Remember: While keeping the beach clean, safety tips to bear in mind are to check tide times, watch out for sharp objects and potentially hazardous waste, and wear protective gloves where necessary.
1. Collect your litter
A day at the beach often means a picnic. Remember to bring a designated bag for your waste and, if you find a part of the beach covered in plastic, any other litter you find. Bringing our own bag will make it easy to tidy up and dispose your and another rubbish on the beach when you're ready to go. If you're able to take it home and recycle everything, even better. It is estimated that up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic gets into the sea each year - the scale of the problem is huge. Much of this litter - around 80% - comes from land, so it's important we stop the cycle.
2. Shop consciously - reduce plastic on the beach
When you're shopping for your picnic, buy smart. Don't contribute to the plastic washing up on beaches by avoiding plastic bottles and plastic bags. Take a reusable water bottle and tubs for your food and try to avoid products packaged in single use plastic where possible. This way, the only thing you'll leave behind are your footprints.
3. Don't feed the animals
Although it might seem like a nice idea, it's important not to feed the animals at the beach, especially seagulls. Feeding seagulls and other seabirds discourages the birds from seeking out their natural nutrient-rich diets and has a negative impact upon their health and the health of the environment as a whole. Feeding the seagulls and other wildlife can disrupt the ecosystem, make animals sick and alter their natural behaviour.
4. Join a beach clean
Joining a beach clean is a great way to give something back. Team up with a local organisation like Keep Scotland Beautiful or the Marine Conservation Society and get yourself out there. The best way to tackle a beach clean is to start small and work together. Stay safe with gloves and sturdy footwear - and have fun! It's great working with like-minded people to help the environment. Take a look at upcoming clean up events to inspire you.
5. Eat sustainable seafood
Scotland is renowned for the quality of its seafood. In fact, many of our seafood dishes are considered delicacies. But to ensure our seas remain a healthy and sustainable source of food, it is important to eat seafood responsibly. One of the best ways to do this is to shop and eat locally, especially at seafood shacks and knowledgeable fishmongers, and ask the right questions when ordering from the menu. It's also a great idea to educate yourself about the different species of fish and shellfish available, and how to recognise if they have been caught or farmed sustainably when checking the label. The List Guide to Sustainable Seafood and Open Seas website are great resources. For more info on provenance, seasonal availability and minimising food miles take a look at Taste Our Best.
6. The clean-up starts at home
It's important to remember that what we put down our drains has a knock-on effect on the environment. Help protect our beaches by being mindful about what you put down the toilet or into the kitchen sink. Wet wipes, cotton buds, nappies and sanitary items should never be flushed down the toilet. Similarly, in the kitchen, excess fats, oils and greases should be put in a bin rather than down the drain. All of these 'unflushables' can cause blockages and overflows in the waste water system, which can be costly to fix. Find out more at Scottish Water or Keep Scotland Beautiful.
7. Spread the word!
Get the word out! Communicate positive messages on climate action to friends, family and whoever else will listen. We all love spending time by the sea, so do your bit to keep our beaches clean and beautiful. Find out more about marine litter and beach clean up programmes you can get involved with such as the Marine Conservation Society's Clean Seas initiative, Great British Beach Clean and National Trust events, and other volunteering opportunities.Visit Keep Scotland Beautiful to see what's happening near you.
Planning a beach trip? Scotland has many award-winning beaches for you to choose from. Let's keep Scotland's beaches looking like this: