Scottish plastic pollution at ‘disturbing’ levels

Plastic pollution in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, is much worse than previously believed, research has found.

Suzanne Grimes of the University of Dundee examined 16 coastal locations either side of the Forth estuary and retrieved a total of 20,281 pieces of plastic from a total area of just 48m2.

71.51% of this pollution was in the form of nurdles, small plastic pellets that are melted down to make plastic products.

The area is home to plastics manufacturers, which Suzanne suggests that mishandling in the industrial process is causing large numbers of these nurdles to find their way onto the shores, posing a major threat to birds and marine life.

Suzanne, who graduated with a degree in Environmental Science last year, said, ‘I was absolutely shocked by what I found when I started this project. I didn’t expect to find so many heavily polluted areas. It was overwhelming and disturbing.

‘What I found was worse than any previous attempts to gauge the scale of the plastic pollution problem had shown. Inspections take place but these are announced ahead of time so areas can be cleaned up. When you conduct a survey at random a different picture emerges.

‘When you walk onto a beach you can see there is clearly so much more pollution out there but you choose the sites you will study beforehand so you are not prejudiced by what you see when you arrive.

‘At each of these 16 locations I put an m2 quadrat down and dug down 2cm. This was done at three different spots at each location. The fact I found so much plastic gives you some idea of how bad the situation is across the whole Forth estuary.’

In March, a study revealed just how prolonged single-use plastics’ impact on the natural environment really is.

The study, conducted by packaging supplier Rajapack, highlighted how long it takes for various plastic products to degrade.

It identified objects such as microplastics, plastic straws and polystyrene cups as among the worst culprits, with microplastics leaving a footprint for millions of years.

Photo credit – the University of Dundee.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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