New map of Scotland's hidden coastline will help in fight against beach litter

Date posted: 28 August 2018

Aerial photographs identify pollution hotspots and litter sinks

A project that’s been mapping the extent of litter around the Scottish coastline has today launched a map that will allow volunteers and organisations to more accurately target their beach clean-ups and litter survey work particularly along areas of coastline that rarely, or never, get litter-picked.

Aeroplane - SCRAPbook

SCRAPbook - Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography - is a collaboration between three charities, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol and the Moray Firth Partnership. It involves pilots and observers taking to the skies to photograph areas of the coastline where they spot litter or pollution.

Catherine Gemmell, MCS Scotland Conservation Officer, coordinates the mobilisation of thousands of volunteers around the Scottish coastline to clean up beaches and record the litter they find as part of the charity’s Beachwatch programme. But, says Catherine, up until now, many kilometres of Scotland’s coastline have never been cleaned: “With nearly 10,000 kilometres making up Scotland’s mainland coast we know there are many stretches of beach that have had no recorded clean up. SCRAPbook will help address that, and provide us with new information that will be crucial to highlight to government and industry what steps we need to be taken next in the fight against marine litter.”

Sky Watch pilots have flown over sections of Scotland’s mainland coast for the last few months taking photographs when they see litter on the coastline. These are then classified by volunteers to establish how much litter is visible on a scale of 1 -5 with 5 being the worst. These classified photographs have now been uploaded to the map where anyone can click on the different points to see an example photo and the type of collection needed.

Archie Liggat, Sky Watch Chairman, says the charity’s pilots get a bird’s eye view of the country’s coastline: “In the worst areas it is absolutely at industrial levels, with plastic blasted up the hills from the coast where it’s been blown. There are hundreds and hundreds of large plastic barrels and crates all over the place, and when there is any large plastic litter visible at all there’s usually a significant amount of smaller stuff too.”

The map can be used by anyone – from local communities and businesses that would like to tackle a bit of the coast the pilots have found litter on, to a kayak club that can help get to those hard to reach areas. Schools, groups, water sports clubs and councils are all being urged to use the website to find out where the worst affected areas are and where efforts need to be focused.

Vicky Junik, from the Moray Firth Partnership which began the SCRAPbook idea said: “We hope that SCRAPbook will become an invaluable tool to everyone tackling the rising tide of marine litter. The easier it is to find out where the litter is, the easier it is to mobilise clean up efforts, and we’ve tried to focus on the less popular or harder to reach parts of the coastline, so we can build a really comprehensive picture of the reality and scale of the challenge; a challenge everyone can help tackle.”

The Minister for Rural Affairs & the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon said: “Litter washed up on our coastline is a scourge that harms our natural environment, both in the sea and on land. That is why I welcome this exciting project that enables the extent of litter around our coastline to be proactively mapped. By collating this information we can better understand where further attention needs to be focused in our continuing efforts to clean up our beautiful coastline.”

The map is available at: for anyone, from organised groups to schools, communities to individuals, to use. Just by visiting the website people will be able to see how much litter has been identified right across Scotland and how they might help in their own area.


Actions you can take

  1. Organise a beach clean
  2. Browse Scotland's Marine Atlas
  3. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  4. Join a beach clean
  5. Find out more about Scottish Wildlife
  6. Visit the beachwatch website

Did you know?…

Scotland has 10% of Europe’s coastline

Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded almost 50% fewer bags on beaches


Single-use Plastics Donate Your Guilt

Donate Your Guilt