Environmental Clean Up – Pleasure Over Plastics

I was recently involved in a shoreline clean up in the beautiful town of Arrochar, on the west coast of Scotland.  I wanted to use this article to share both how easy it is to do your bit to help take care of our environment and the trouble that is being caused by our rubbish!

Arrochar Shore Line
View from Arrochar Shore Line

Plastics are causing havoc everywhere, even on our hills, countryside and shore lines.  This often takes away some of the pleasure of using these beautiful places when it can become spoiled by discarded rubbish.


How I Got Involved

Getting involved was easy.  I read a post on camping group page I am a member of on Facebook.  This was one guy, called Steve who invited people to join him to help clean up the shoreline in that area.  He set it up as an event and allowed anyone to participate and the power of Facebook more or less done the rest. Well it got people involved.

It really was that simple to get it started.

Steve then contacted the local council and told them what he had done to arrange this and asked if they could help by providing bag and litter pickers and also to arrange for the litter that was collected to be picked up by the refuse workers at a designated point.

He did try to arrange free parking in the local car park, but this was refused. However, a very nice business owner allowed some cars to be parked in her own caravan park.  She also offered all helpers a free cup of tea or coffee.

I have been to the area on a few occasions and knew that weather permitting it would be a good day out, with great scenery, meeting likeminded people so thought, why not. So, I marked myself as attending on the event page and that was it. Simples!

There were times marked for the event, but it was made clear that any time you could spare would be helpful and you didn’t need to stay the full day.  This was great as you were not under any pressure to commit to a whole day.

people clearing rubbish from shore
Working hard bagging up rubbish


What We Achieved

On the day I was attending I made sure I wrapped up well as it was frosty out as it was still only February.  I made a flask of coffee, made sure I took some money for some lunch.  Packed my litter picker and drove up.

We were all to meet in the car park and as we were a little late some of the others were already started. We introduced ourselves and quickly starting clearing some of the rubbish.  On the Saturday there were around 11 of us helping to collect litter, this included 2 children who had come with their mum and gran to help.

It was unbelievable some of the items we collected but around 80% of this was made of plastics.  I have never seen so many bottle lids in one place in my life.  There were bottle lids, bottles, empty food containers, tampon applicators, crisp packets, even an estate agent sign were of the most common, well apart from the sign, sure there was only one of those.

We also removed a lot of fishing nets and fishing rope that has been discarded and washed to shore.  The netting especially is harmful to sea life.

We worked away throughout the morning lifting litter and getting to know each other.  Each person had their own reason for helping on that day.  One was a local, who I think was glad that people had come to lend a hand as there is an overwhelming amount washed up each year, too much for locals to keep removing themselves.

There was Steve who organised it and his wife and friend.  Steve and his wife enjoy nights away in the area and all 3 of them are keen outdoor enthusiasts.

A family who came and were keen to look for nurdles too.  She was great at explaining what nurdles were as most of us hadn’t really heard of them and where they came from.  She also educated us on reporting them and the dangers of them.

picture of nurdles, plastics raw form
Nurdles, plastic in it’s rawest form.

One member of the group came along to help as she had a spare day before flying home to Australia to visit her parents. 

Most of the rubbish that was collected is washed in to this lovely little place from the Clyde.  Glasgow is a large city and it is home to many events throughout the year. Many of these are near to the Clyde.  Not all this rubbish is able to get collected and removed safely with some becoming entrapped in bushes and other hard to reach places.  With weather and movement of wildlife this can travel and often ends up in the Clyde.

Here it travels along the waterways affecting sea life and other wildlife. Plastics can break down into micro-plastics and be consumed so as well as harming our planets animals and marine life it is also entering our own food-chain.

As we left, just after 2pm we had already collected over 20 bags of rubbish and considering that the most picked up piece of litter was bottle tops I think that is quite impressive.  More of the group stayed and helped and then a few people were going to go on the Sunday and try to collect more.

bags of rubbish collected from shoreline
Some of the rubbish collected on the day,

This may not seem a lot to some people but, remember, every little helps.



Some Stats

·         90% of litter collected from beaches is plastic

·         The introduction of the 5p levy on single use plastics bags reduced the number of these bags found on UK beaches by 4% in the first year.  The number of bags being found is still declining, so a great result.

·         Turtles often mistake plastic bags and balloons for jellyfish, which they feed on.  This results in causing them great digestive problems and even death.

·         Balloon related litter has risen by over 50% in resent years due to people using them to mark events, often these are released balloons.

·         Nurdles are found on 75% of UK beaches. Nurdles are small plastic pellets, the raw material used to make plastics. These are so small that they often get into our waters through various means and are now polluting our beaches.

·         All plastics that have been created since the 50’s still remain on earth to this day. 



Many Ways to Help

Now this wasn’t the first time I had been out and helped clean up a designated area with a group of people I had never met.  I have been involved in a few Cito’s (cache in trash out) over the years. This is an event held within the Geocaching Community, read more here about Geocaching.

During one of the above events I even helped to remove the shell of a power boat of a beach!

We also try to carry a spare bag with us when we go walking, caching, hiking or camping and pick up 1 bag of litter while out.  Every little helps in my eyes.

·         Always take your rubbish home or dispose of it correctly in bins, try to recycle where possible.

·         If you do find nurdles on a beach you can report them at https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk.

·         try to reduce the amount of plastics you use yourself.  The less we use the less there will be damaging our planet and wildlife.

·         Organise your own clean up in an area that is special to you.

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