Marine Litter

Marine Litter and Pollution

We are increasingly aware of the damage caused by litter and pollution on our coasts and in our seas. It looks unsightly, but worse, it can be extremely harmful to marine wildlife. Plastic waste is picked up by the ocean’s filter feeders, mistakenly eaten by seabirds and fish, and can cause death through entanglement for many marine creatures. More than eight million tonnes of plastic goes into the oceans every year. With an estimated 300 million tonnes of it now littering our seas, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish by 2050. Numerous species of fish eaten by humans have been found to contain plastic, and the effect of eating these on human health is still unknown.

There’s lots of  positive action you can take by reducing your use of plastics, and getting involved with the clean up.  With the majority of the litter originating on land we’re all responsible, so help us to clean up our act!

SCRAPbook (Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography)

The SCRAPbook project was in innovative collaboration between Moray Firth Partnership, Sky Watch (UK Civil Air Patrol) and Marine Conservation Society. Throughout 2018, volunteer pilots and observers from UK Civil Air Patrol (Sky Watch) invested over a hundred and fifty hours flying the Scottish mainland, capturing images of the rubbish around our coastline.  The photographs taken were then classified according to the amount of litter visible, by a team who volunteered over a thousand hours of their time.  All of these have been used to create the SCRAPbook interactive map, showing the true scale of the litter problem around the coast of Scotland for the first time. The Moray Firth area is being surveyed again in 2019/20, to provide an update of the state of the coastline. Take a look at the SCRAPbook website to see where the worst of the coastal litter is. 

Get out and clean up

There are a number of  local groups running  beach clean events, or you could make litter picking part of every beach outing.

We encourage all volunteers to follow the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Beachwatch method and making a note of the type of litter that you find for a 100 metre stretch of your clean. Using the Beachwatch method means that all the information gathered becomes part of a valuable data set that shows what the litter is, and where the priorities for action lie. The MCS Great British Beach Clean report for 2019, gives a breakdown of what volunteers collected.

As a result of 20 years of data gathering MCS have been able to see that legislation can rapidly have a positive impact, with the 5p charge for plastic bags resulting in a 40% drop in the number appearing in beach cleans.

Other marine litter campaign groups

Join other MCS marine rubbish campaigns or campaigns run by other organisations including:



Image credit: KIMO