Ocean Garbage…

…is a fact that inlanders hardly are aware of. Possibly, when visiting a coastline during vacation, through a television program or the isolated article in the local newspaper, people living away from salty shores may get a small insight of all the refuse and waste that exists in the oceans. It wasn’t until I started walking the shores along Shetland that the variety and amount of floating scrap became apparent, and I earlier wouldn’t or couldn’t conceive how the world is polluting the seas until coming to this tiny group of Atlantic islands.

And, the garbage is very real! While taking walks along a nearby part of Shetland’s shores, the beachcomber comes out in me. Eyes pointed downwards, I search the deposits of freshly washed up kelp for some special seashell, piece of wood, hunk of amber or rare maritime artifact but, after a short time, realize that a large percentage of beached debris is manmade polyethylene.

The garbage becomes more apparent as I glance higher up along the beach or shore, where many years of accumulated crap can be found. It’s mind-boggling with the ropes and netting material, plastic containers and water bottles that are pushed on shore or slowly disappearing into the sands. One distressing thought is the seals, dolphins or birds that can, and do, get tangled into this junk.

Occasionally, I can consider who’s to blame for this mess. It isn’t Shetland’s fault that somebody else’s garbage blows up on its shoreline! It’s hardly the fault of the people visiting the beaches, though in some cases the odd soda can or forgotten shoe can be had. And, can one really blame the ships or fishing vessels out to sea, when fighting heavy winds as their fishing nets are torn away or loose equipment wash overboard?

If I remember right, about three times more garbage is thrown into the seas than the amount of fish taken. And, there is so much debate about EU fishing quotas and so little said about keeping the ocean clean…? It just seems baffling. Where are the champions for keeping our oceans clean?
Photo:Meal Beach

In an attempt to suggest something positive, I want to highlight that Shetland sets aside time and money to clean-up its shores. Each year, residents are invited to participate in a road and shore clean-up and literally hundreds take time to handpick scrap off of the beaches etc. The council provides and allocates funds for pick-up and hauling of the collected garbage.

I think this is commendable! Both the council and especially the volunteers need to be patted on their backs for this great effort. Unfortunately, the crap keeps blowing in from the seas at a regular pace and almost defeats the purpose.

Think, if more and more of us would refuse using non-degradable polyethylene where possible? One idea that I try to practice, is to pick-up some beach scrap and carry it home for disposal each time I go for a walk. Think if everyone did this as they visit Shetland’s shoreline? Could be a great habit and good idea?

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