During the end of January and February we have been through a very large number of storms. In total, we recovered 718 kg from Balnakeil Bay in 6 weeks. As you can see on the graph, this is a very similar scenario than during the winter 2017. We were suspecting it since a long time but these peaks of pollution are actually associated with the exposure in situ of past pollution events. The trawler net and the fish farm feeder pipe that form 60% of the pollution weight of this event had been observed before but could not be recovered. The net was there for 10 years and the pipe was there since at least last November.
This brings us to two conclusions:
- Major events of beach pollution are most likely the result of long lasting accumulation on shorelines that gets exposed during winter storms. The events bringing the pollution digs into the beach profile, drop their load and the fair weather buries the plastic. Sometimes you have to wait several years to be able to remove large items from such events.
- The only preventive action is a constant monitoring of beaches year round to capture pollution before it enters the environment and becomes unreachable. In addition, when events start exposing material, you have to be reactive and remove it as soon as possible.
We believe that beach rangers are the most efficient, reliable and cost effective way of battling against global plastic pollution at the moment. We have estimated that in real cost, a beach ranger removes 1kg of plastic every £1.5 spent, the equivalent to a hundred plastic bottles. We are struggling to obtain wages to maintain this essential service for a single ranger although we should have 10 of them to be able to have a real impact around Cape Wrath area. Plastic removal would cost billions, the only reason it is cheap is because nobody is actually paying the bill; except us maybe?