50 Years of Beach Litter on Skye

This project’s mission is to work with island communities to characterise marine litter in Northwest Scotland by co-creating accessible surveying methodologies that can help to fill a considerable geographical gap in marine litter data. It stems from Loughborough University’s 50 Years of Litter on Skye (50YOLOS) project which, with members of the Isle of Skye community, evaluated the use of established (OSPAR Commission) methodologies for marine litter surveying on beaches across Skye. This evaluation highlighted considerable challenges to marine litter monitoring on this complex and heavily polluted coastline. The 50YOLOS Team continue to work with the Skye community to consider how challenging established methods can best be applied and modified to understand marine litter across the Hebrides. 

Our interdisciplinary research is also working with communities to understand the perceptions and impacts of marine litter on local communities, and how the nature of marine litter has changed over time. This has included the co-creation of research questions with members of the Skye community to explore the impacts of aquaculture in coastal environments. We now seek further funding to explore the concerns and research questions that our work to date has identified, to accelerate our development of more accessible beach surveying methodologies, and to expand our research to other Hebridean islands.

Over the course of two weeks, the 50YOLOS team surveyed 13 909 pieces of marine litter across nine Skye beaches by hand; surveyed the same beaches by drone; cleared over 1.5 tonnes of beach litter; identified textile fibre and microplastic pollution in coastal waters, including microplastics of the same colour and polymer as that used widely in aquaculture; and interviewed members of the Skye community to identify local concerns, questions, and knowledge and expertise about marine litter. In addition to advancing current understanding of the problem of Marine Litter in this region, 50YOLOS identified local priorities and additional research questions that were beyond its scope. Additional funding will enable this team to realise the full potential of 50YOLOS, raise the profile of the communities who are working so hard to protect the beautiful islands of Northwest Scotland, and extend the generation of rigorous environmental data to inform policy and legislation that does not adequately protect this coastal region.