THE ORKNEY Islands are set to become the first Scottish island to feature in an aerial photography project that will help communities tackle coastal litter, thanks to support from single malt Scotch whisky distillery Highland Park.

The islands will be pictured from above this week as part of the Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography (SCRAPbook) initiative following the successful mapping of the Scottish mainland in 2018. The project highlights the scale of coastal pollution in a bid to combat the critical environmental problem.

Funding from Orkney-based distillery Highland Park will enable volunteer pilots in a light aircraft to capture extensive and detailed images of pollution around the islands’ coastline. The images will then be classified by volunteer citizen scientists and put onto an online map identifying litter hot spots to aid targeted clean-up action.

Marie Stanton, distillery manager at Highland Park, said: “Our whisky is a product of our unique environment, from the temperate climate and heather infused peat, to our stories inspired by our Norse ancestry.

“Scotch Whisky has been made on the site of Highland Park for more than 221 years, and we believe that thanks to the characteristics of our islands we capture the essence of the Orkney motto: ‘The north is our home, the sea is our friend’.

“We are always looking to improve and enhance sustainability at Highland Park, so partnering with SCRAPbook feels like a natural fit and a great opportunity for us to continue to work with our local community to look after both the land we live and work on and the sea that surrounds us.”

As well as providing funding for SCRAPbook’s Orkney map, Highland Park employees will take part in a volunteer clean-up operation when the results are published later this year.

Launched in 2018, SCRAPbook is a project led by two charities – the Moray Firth Partnership and Sky Watch UK Civil Air Patrol.

Helen Houston, chair of the Moray Firth Partnership, said: “The support from the Highland Park Distillery means we can bring our initiative to Orkney for the first time. The Scotland-wide map was really well received and helped inspire volunteer organisations across the country to organise clean-up groups. People are always looking for ways to get involved in caring for their environment. The aerial mapping allows us to identify locations that are a little out of the way, less explored and as a result can sometimes be the most polluted. This enables communities to see more of their homes and make a real difference.”

As well as implementing more sustainable methods into the production process, the Highland Park Distillery has discontinued the use of plastic bags in the distillery shop and at its new visitor retail experience in Kirkwall. It has also recently introduced chemical-free cleaning at the distillery offices and new store.

The brand is currently working with suppliers to create new merchandise crafted from reusable plastics and exploring environmentally friendly packaging options.