Turning the tide on marine plastic at NNRs

This weekend was the Great British Beach Clean, an initiative of the Marine Conservation Society. We held clean-up events at Forvie and St Cyrus National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and encouraged members of the community to join us. Our NNR Reserve Managers Annabel Drysdale (Forvie) and Therese Alampo (St Cyrus) tell us more…

Forvie_family surveying beach litter2018

Forvie and St Cyrus National Nature Reserves have outstanding beaches, much enjoyed by people and relied on by wildlife to shelter and feed.  However, north-east Scotland is not immune to the global issues of beach litter and marine plastic which lessen our enjoyment of the coast and pose dangerous threats to the birds and animals that encounter discarded items.

The tide is turning though, with recent high profile campaigns raising awareness to reduce our use of plastic bags, straws and single use products.  Our coastal NNRs have a long history of supporting beach cleaning and it will soon be easier than ever for anyone to help.

Both NNRs regularly organise beach cleans open to the public and this weekend saw over 130 people joining us for the Great British Beach Clean weekend.  35 bags of litter were collected, with recyclable plastic, cans and glass separated wherever possible. It was great to see so many people come out to help!

These events ask helpers to survey part of the coast during the clean-up and the results are sent for inclusion to the MCS national report.  Finding out where beach litter is coming from is one step to stop it arriving on the shore.

Taking our support for beach cleaning one step further, Forvie and St Cyrus are entering into an exciting project with East Grampian Coastal Partnership.  We are encouraging visitors to the coast to ‘take 3 for the sea’ and simply collect three items while they are on the beach to put in the bins back at the car parks.  Of course you don’t have to stop at three – every item you pick up will make a big difference!


We also value our links with local schools and St Cyrus NNR has been hosting beach school visits with the local primary for over a year now.  Staff lead activities such as rock pooling, geology, art and navigation, so the pupils already know a lot about the coast.

In addition, we have asked artist Julia Barton to run workshops with St Cyrus Primary and a local school to Forvie, Newburgh Mathers Primary, this autumn.  Julia will explore beach litter in imaginative visits and challenge the children to think about what it is, where it came from and how much energy has been used to make all the rubbish lying around. Julia will also use some of the beach plastic found to produce cubes of solid waste, which will be displayed at the Scottish Parliament next year.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out over the weekend. Our beaches are beautiful, but we all need to put in the work to make sure they stay clean and safe for our wildlife, and for future generations to enjoy. Whether you were able to join us or not, we encourage you to ‘take 3 for the sea’ wherever you are!

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