February 7, 2022
It’s becoming increasingly common to carry a bag for picking up other people’s litter while out on a walk. We seem to have a problem with litter that’s on a scale other countries just wouldn’t recognise. Marine litter however is a different sort of problem but in many respects, a more serious one. It’s a massive problem for our islands – not just in terms of what to do with it once collected – as islanders endlessly do – but also because of the impact it has on marine wildlife. A joint initiative is being coordinated by umbrella body, Scottish Islands Federation.
We’re sick and tired of marine litter! This was one of the key messages highlighted at our island marine litter learning exchange earlier this year.
Scotland’s islands are home to the most spectacular beaches in the UK, a huge asset to the whole of Scotland, and yet the enormous contribution of the community groups and volunteers that work so hard to keep our beaches clean, often goes unnoticed and the need for long-term investment, overlooked. Marine litter is a massive, global issue and for the island communities directly in its path, its relentless.
Creating an opportunity for island groups to get together for the first time, to share experience and look at ways of working together, 20 participants from across the islands took part in the exchange event.
The learning from three working island initiatives – Catriona Spink of OceanGives Tiree, Ina Glover of Islay Beach Watch (part of Islay Development Initiative), and Janet Marshal of Clean Coast Outer Hebrides -was followed by discussion around challenges, possible solutions, and collective action that we could take forward.
While international solutions are needed to reduce the volume of plastic entering the oceans, common issues experienced on the ground in islands included the need for greater awareness of the issue and its impact, improved uplift and recycling of material and the urgency of long-term investment in communities to provide capacity, paid jobs, equipment, research and circular economy solutions.
The meeting concluded with the agreement to establish a Marine Litter Working Group to enable us to work together to make a difference, bring greater awareness to the situation in islands, look for solutions, share learning and engage with policy.
Since then, the Working Group, which includes members from Shetland, Westray and Orkney, Barra, Bute, Islay, Tiree, Gigha, Eigg and Arran, has meet twice and, while still finding its feet, is already proving to be a valuable forum. A representative of the Working Group has been invited to join the Scottish Government Marine Litter Strategy Steering Group and, following an informative session with Marine Scotland Science and Scottish Association for Marine Science, it was agreed that we work together to explore a new island specific model for beach litter data.
The Working Group meets monthly, and we will regularly share information on the SIF website and social media. If you would like to get involved with our work on marine litter or join the circulation list, we would love to hear from you – email firstname.lastname@example.org