Scotland 2023 – Thorpy’s Project Journal

2023 Summary

A Very Different Year

I have just returned from a very enjoyable couple of days in Scotland cleaning 367 kg plastic from a beach. In past years mainly thanks to Cairo, we have been able to take a group of people (between 6 and 8) but that was not to be this year. And after trying to get together a group via my own means, I realised how difficult it is.

Carrying Ocean Plastic

I must have shared details of the trip with around 200,000 people, 2000 of which were emailed directly. The rest via social media. We did get some responses, I thank those people for their support.

In the end we had just 3 volunteers (including myself) willing to go, and I considered that too small a group given the isolated social situation that the work entails, and as such decided to cancel the group trip . . .

However, since last August we have received £143 in donations. These donations have been made on the basis that we would do a beach clean, and to make good on our £1.50 per kg of ocean plastic metric removed, we needed to collect 204 kg of plastic, so as to fulfill those donations.

I took the decision to go on my own, and feel very happy to have done so.

Day 1

On the evening of my arrival after an 8 hour drive I went for quick swim in the sea, and then I went to investigate beaches for cleaning. I had done some research on google maps, and it was all pretty much useless, and points where I had hoped to gain access were not possible.

I did meet an awesome farmer called Willie (snap!) and he said it was OK to use his track down to the shore. However, I was very pleased to see that the shore in this area had been cleaned around 3 years prior by another charity. Apparently about 30 of them accordingly to Willie, what a team.

At this point it was getting a bit late, so I rang up a farmer from last year, where i know there is lots of plastic, and asked about using his track. Yes he says. Time for dinner says I.

Day 2

I was on the beach for about 0930. I was keen to try out a new rucksack I had made, but being a bit sensible I concentrated on some low hanging fruit to start with collecting a load of plastic within 100m of road head.

After lunch I headed about 350m along the beach, and cleared a few badly contaminated areas.

By the end of the day I had collected about 110kg of plastic. Which was OK, but really I wanted to get more than 204kg if I could. So I decided on the next day to concentrate on a huge coil of rope I had spotted, as it was shedding clouds of microplastic fibres every time it was brushed against.

Image showing a heaps of plastic in a trailer. The plastic is colourful and comprised of creates and drums. Much of the plastic is cracked and broken, there are also ropes and small bottles included.
Some of the Plastic Collected on Day 2

Day 3

I was quite excited on day 3 to wrestle with this beast of a rope that turned out to weigh about quarter of a ton. Once cut into manageable sections it also dragged well along the cobbles and grass areas.

Whilst I was cutting it up I had to hold by breath at points as I was caught in a cloud of plastic fibres, I think a dust mask might have been a good idea. This  illustrates the point about microplastics, this one rope is like a micro plastic factory.

I had to take yesterday’s ocean plastic to the council run disposal centre by mid morning, get back to beach, drag rope to trailer and then get back to the disposal centre again before it closed at 6.00pm.

After cramming all of this in I was pretty much exhausted. And being I was working on my own in the middle of nowhere thought I would call it a day there. When you are tiered you are more prone to accidents, and having an accident in this sort of location, with no one to go to help would not be great.

So I packed it in and went home the next day. 367kg collected. Mission accomplished.

Thank Yous

I would like to say thank you to our 4 principal donors this year. J, C, G and Y. Thank you very much. You are in a small minority.

Also I would like to thank W and M, who agreed to come this year. I hope you will be available to come next year!

And finally I extend thanks to all previous volunteers & farmers who have enabled us to shift so much plastic in 2021 and 2022, this beach cleaning really is a case of “many hands make light work”.

Next Year

The best kind of situation in terms of giving value for money to donors is a very dirty beach with good access for a car and trailer. Thankfully it would seem that the more accessible beaches are being cleaned, not just by PAPP but other charities and members of the public.

So the big thing for next year is access.

Walking along the “beaches” in these less accessible areas is quite dangerous. There are large cobbles and divots that would certainly sprain or strain an ankle it not careful. I don’t mind taking this risk myself, but to ask volunteers to do it is a bit rich.

Either we need to beat a path through the shrub of the foreshore. Which I feel is ecologically destructive, or we need a boat. I think a cheap SIB boat and engine would cost about £2500, again there is some risk involved, but if done carefully I feel it would be the best way to shift the most plastic from these remote areas.

For example the above Slouchnamaroch Bay probably have a good ton of plastic on it. And is just around the corner from a nice sandy cove, where one could land a boat. . . . alternatively perhaps a team could paddle around and then winch out the ocean plastic . . .  its all about costs, and risks to people on the ground.

As every we would love to be able to incinerate this waste in the UK. That way we would know it was gone for good. Landfill is a temporary solution, but I have genuine concerns that some of this carefully collected waste will be exported to developing countries and end up on a beach somewhere else. . . . which is a reality I try not to dwell on.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *