Tales from Scotland - Episode 2, The Plastic Project

  • Life
posted by sgallaher@surfstitch.com

You can’t surf in the northern latitudes of Europe without a lot of patience and just a love of being there. Windows in the weather are fickle and before you know it you’re battening down the hatches in a freezing offshore, or wet onshore gale. But it’s these times where we can explore, it’s the time to look for rubbish.

Out of everywhere I have been the north coast of Scotland is at first glimpse one of the most rubbish free zones I’ve found. The reasons are pretty simple, but hide the real story. The coastline of Caithness is mostly rock shelf and pretty exposed, those same slabs that create the waves don’t give rubbish a lot of time to hang around, the heavy wave energy and the fact that some of the strongest ocean currents in the world surge through the Pentland Firth carting a lot of rubbish with it, don’t give it a chance to hang around. But, anywhere there is an eddy in the coast, a little area where wave action and tides dissipate, where a cobblestone beach clings on below low cliffs there is rubbish. It’s funny on this particular stretch I have walked along the top of the cliff hundreds of times, the wave at the end is one of my favourite to shoot, but despite always noticing the odd bit of fishing debris, I had never really scoured this beach fro rubbish until now. All of this rubbish is in a 100 metre long stretch, we took off what we could, but the little knock in the north coast was a real collection point for a huge amount of marine litter. Everything is there, from fishing gear to bottles, although you can never say where a piece of litter entered the sea, the fact there was bottles from Iceland, packaging from Russia and everything in between form the UK, you can see where things at least began their journey.

It’s a sobering find, on a coast I had always considered so pristine, and on the surface it is.

1. Under the low cliffs, rubbish is just wedged.

2. This bottle is from Iceland, I know this as I have in the past purchased it, a sparkling water flavoured with lemon from the Toppur brand, an Icelandic soft drink maker owned by Coke. Did it drift/get blown all the way from Iceland? Or did it make it some of the way by boat? would love to know.

3. This fish tray is from a company based in Zeebrugge in Belgium, about 1,300KM away, likely it fell of a boat, and more recently than 1999 judging by the state of it.

4. This flip flop has been at sea for a while judging by the limpet growth, sadly no clues on its origin.

5. This coast is particularly affected by fishing gear.

6. Not plastic, but still slowly corroding, a Pepsi scan rusts in peace.

7. A little further along the coast, in a sheltered sea loch and the plastic is everywhere, Micah Lester on a mission for a quick 2 Minute Beach Clean

8. The haul, the buoy is from a mussel farm, we took it back to them, just a few miles up the loch.