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marine environment

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Marine litter sinks

A litter sink is an area where marine litter accumulates due to a combination wind direction, tidal motion and the spin of the earth. There are a number of litter sinks around Scotland’s coastline, particularly on the west coast. The litter comes from a range of sources globally and impacts on local communities who find themselves clearing up other people’s rubbish.

Marine Scotland is using the Arrochar litter sink, at the head of Loch Long, as a case study to monitor waste influx and support community led litter picks and surveys. The results of the monitoring and surveys help to inform research and policy development for marine litter. It is this learning that will be used to help the Scottish Government tackle other litter sinks across Scotland, and marine litter more generally.

Marine Scotland led a clean-up of the Arrochar shoreline on 23-26 May 2018. 140 volunteers picked 244 bags of rubbish and 185 tonnes of mixed seaweed litter waste was mechanically removed from the shore.  This work was in partnership with Argyll and Bute council, GRAB Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Zero Waste Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Arrochar, Ardlui and Tarbet community council, Luss Estates and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. On 20-21 May 2019 we repeated this exercise and removed 220 tonnes of seaweed mixed with small plastic debris from the shore, equating to 14 lorry loads. 

As part of our commitment to begin to address marine litter sinks, the Scottish Government provided funding to start the SCRAPbook project, which uses volunteer pilots from the charity Skywatch to take aerial photos of the coastline to identify litter hot spots. This will enable clean-up resources to be used more efficiently following analysis of the photos.  Data is managed and the project coordinated by the other two partners, Marine Conservation Society and the Moray Firth Partnership.

On 03 October 2018 Marine Scotland announced a new fund in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland. This fund is designed to support innovation in marine plastics capture, collection and recovery.