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25th Great British Beach Clean Weekend

by Louise Thomason -

Plastic pollution is a very serious problem, and one that most of us seem quite slow to really do much about. Getting young people involved in the battle to reduce litter and plastic pollution is one way to tackle the problem, however.

Last weekend, Shetland Amenity Trust’s environmental awareness initiative Dunna Chuck Bruck took part in the Marine Conservation Society’s 25th Great British Beach Clean, with the help of some pupil volunteers from Hamnavooe Primary School.

Despite the dreich weather, the group of P6 and P7s took to Meal beach for a morning of litter gathering, and surveying their finds.

Established in 1993, the Great British Beach Clean is the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK. It is run by the Marine Conservation Society, and informs a vital annual national survey on beach litter.

The information volunteers have collected over the last 25 years has helped make some of the most significant impacts on beach litter, such as the plastic bag charge, getting microplastics banned in personal care products and better wet wipe labelling.

This is the first year that the Amenity Trust has taken part in the initiative, but Environmental Improvement officer Sita Goudie felt it was important to take part.

She said: “It’s important because the findings of the survey link in to national statistics which get used to lobby the government on ocean litter and plastic use. There have only been a couple of surveys done in Shetand in the past, but we’re hoping do more, and learn a bit more about the results each year.”

Sita said she wanted to involve a school, and asked Hamnavoe Primary School if they’d like to be involved as they’ve done some work with them in the past.

The MSC survey is extremely detailed, with twelve categories and over 100 possible materials, from different types of plastic bag to clothing, shotgun cartridges, bottles, sanitary items and more. To carry out the survey, they split the beach into 20 metre sections, with two children and one adult covering each section.

A staggering 1,108 items were collected at the event, with the vast majority of it being plastic.

There have been some interesting finds: food packaging from all over the world: Singapore, Spain and the Phillipines; mussel tags from the US, and once, a hard hat belonging to a man named Barry Preston.

Sita said: “We had a lot of fun with that. The bairns at Mid Yell School found a hat with the owners name on it, so we ran a social media campaign to find him - #findBarryPreston. We eventually tracked him down! The bairns thought that was hilarious, and amazing to learn how far something can travel.”

As well as finding litter and rubbish, there are other interesting finds which make the survey worthwhile, such as several By-the-Wind Sailor jellyfish. Generally found in warmer waters, they are not usually seen so far north.

Out with the annual clean up initiative Da Voar Redd Up, The Amenity Trust also operates the Dunna Chuck Bruck Challenge which offers youngsters the chance to to run their own project, improve their environment, help wildlife and make a positive difference to their community.

Sita said: “We do a lot of engagement work with schools and youth groups, as it’s easier to catch [the children] at a young age and inspire them to be active citizens and help look after their environment.

“We have the Redd Up which is great for clearing litter, but Dunna Chuck Bruck is about stopping the litter getting to the beach in the first place.

“It’s about getting the bairns to think, yeah, I can go and clean the beach, but I can also write to companies about what they find, and maybe get those companies to think about where their packaging or products end up.”

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