Fife marine conservation volunteer on a mission to stop people putting the wrong stuff down the loo

Take the 3P Pledge and put only pee, poo and paper down the pan, says Jo!

Who wants to make sandcastles from wet wipes and cotton bud sticks? These sanitary items aren’t just unpleasant for us to see but we know they cause real damage to the creatures who live in Scotland’s seas.

Tara Proud,
MCS Sea Champions Manager Scotland

A biologist and conservationist from Charlestown, Fife, has become so disgusted with seeing toilet waste strewn across her local village streams, rivers, beaches as well as in the sea, that she’s decided to take action.

Joanna McFarlane, 43, who runs local environmental education business Wild Planet Explorers and is a Sea Champion volunteer with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has created a community initiative called the 3P Pledge.

The 3P Pledge asks every household to pledge to only put the 3P’s - pee, poo and paper - down the toilet. It might seem obvious, but across the Scotland and the rest of the UK, people are flushing wet wipes, cotton bud sticks and nappies down the loo and much of this ends up on our beaches.

“Sadly my local beach in Limekilns, where my child plays, regularly has wipes (including biodegradable and flushable ones), cotton buds and sanitary items washing up there as a result of people putting them down the toilet. This causes blockages and the overflow of toilet waste into the sea, further adding to the already shocking levels of plastic in our marine environment,” says Joanna.

Joanna says it was after collecting 438 cotton buds in one small area of the beach during one of our local beach cleans earlier this year that prompted her to launch the pledge: “I launched the 3P Pledge and became my local 3P Pledge Champion to encourage everyone locally to pledge to never throw these things down the toilet. The local community and school have been amazing in getting involved.”

The amount of sewage related debris (SRD, that’s the name given to stuff that ends up on our beaches after being wrongly flushed down the loo) was above the national UK on Scottish beaches in 2016.

There were 75 bits of SRD per 100m of Scottish beaches cleaned, compared to 45 pieces nationally.

Wet wipes have gone up over 1900% on Scottish beaches in the last ten years with almost 27 found on every 100m of beach surveyed during the MCS Great British Beach Clean in 2016 – the national average of wet wipes per 100m is 14, so almost double the national average.

Cotton buds sticks, another frequently flushed item that belongs in the bin not down the pan, are also found in quantities above the national average on Scottish beaches – 33 compared to 26 elsewhere in the UK.

Joanna has been working with local Scout groups of all ages to develop an award scheme which includes taking part in beach and river cleans to communicate MCS pollution campaign messages to young people and to get them to take action.

On Saturday 18th November from 10am to 1pm, Beavers and Scouts will be joining local volunteers for a Community Council organised litter pick at Burntisland beach and the local area.

Members of the 11th Fife Scouts and 24th Kirkcaldy Beavers are working towards a special award which includes taking part in beach and river cleans to complete their Wild Planet Explorers 3P Pledge Champion Award.

Tara Proud, MCS Sea Champions Manager Scotland, will be attending the clean and running a litter survey: “Who wants to make sandcastles from wet wipes and cotton bud sticks? These sanitary items aren’t just unpleasant for us to see but we know they cause real damage to the creatures who live in Scotland’s seas. It’s so inspiring that Joanna has voluntarily taken the initiative to tackle this problem. Thanks so much to the Scouts for supporting the 3P Pledge. We hope this inspires other people to take action to clean up our beaches and seas.”

To find out more about how to take the 3P Pledge, become a 3P Pledge Champion or take part in the Award, please visit the Facebook page Wild Planet Explorers Facebook page or The 3P Pledge Facebook page or email: joannamcfarlane@wildplanetexplorers.co.uk

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Actions you can take

  1. Organise a beach clean
  2. Visit the beachwatch website
  3. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017
  4. Visit the Unflushables website
  5. Join a beach clean

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