I moved to Orkney 18 months ago to take up the Eday Ranger position, of course I’d always been concerned about marine pollution and pollution in general but it wasn’t until I lived up here that I became quite so passionate (or should I say militant) about it. I think it’s the sheer amount you see up here, every tide line on every beach is strewn with all kinds of plastic rubbish as the PU3P outreach to schools proves with their collection of plastic items collected from around Orkney. Then discovering the fate of all these plastic items, to photo-degrade becoming smaller and smaller then being ingested by marine life. That’s if birds and mammals haven’t become entangled or trapped in plastic items before they break down. Obviously, we all know marine litter is not a good thing but I don’t think many people realise quite how dangerous it is so the PU3P campaign is a brilliant idea as it helps the physical state of the beaches but also makes people think about their plastic use and what happens to their rubbish when it’s thrown out – where’s out? In terms of our planet, there is no out so we need a shift in thinking, as well being very good recyclers and re-users we also need to reduce the amount of plastic being manufactured, every new bit of plastic is just another bit that will never, ever disappear!
So it was time for Eday to get the PU3P treatment, after a visit to Glaitness Primary School with Lindsey from RSPB to watch Lesley in action and learn how to interpret to a younger audience and also borrow the collection of bruck to show the Eday children. So first we had a chat about the marine environment, the fate of plastics and other rubbish, the sad stories associated with it but then to cheer us up again we talked about what we can do to help. It seems such a daunting prospect but as we found out, if you do what you can, what more can anyone ask? The more people that think this way, the bigger the movement will become. We then had a go at identifying some of the marine litter PU3P had lent to us and the children loved it as we made it like a scavenger hunt with a tick list. After all the items had been spotted we talked through a few of them explaining how they could endanger an animal or the effect it could have. As usual, the Eday children were very interested and concerned so we had a wee chat about our Bag the Bruck activity that will be coming up and they decided we should spread the word of PU3P to everyone we know!
This was followed by a ‘Rubbish Evening’ at Eday Heritage Centre, there was an illustrated presentation, similar to what the children had in the morning although with a few more sad photos of seals entangled in rope, whales in ghost-nets and birds killed through entanglement just to get the point across as I reckon we all need reminded sometimes. This was followed by an excellent talk by RSPB Enjoy Wild Orkney’s Anne Bignall on all the amazing things that can be seen just below the surface of Orkney waters. There was a quick break to refill glasses and order dinner then we gathered again to watch Raymond Besant’s short film, ‘The Flying Dustbin’ which tells the story of how plastic pollution affects fulmars, in a graphic yet engaging way, again emphasising why we need to do something now. It was getting late by the time we finished but there was still time for sausage, chips and Orkney Best. This event attracted 35 adults in the evening and our entire school of six pupils took part in the morning, if everyone one of those people went to the beach once and picked up their three pieces we’d have 123 pieces less of litter on our beaches! It all adds up so spread the word.
The next step for us is getting one of these fancy bins you’ll have seen popping up all over Orkney, partaking in Bag the Bruck in April and picking up 3 pieces all year long!