THE contrast is shocking.

The video, taken last weekend, shows a boat sailing in one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland – but when its passengers land at a remote beach on Skye, they are appalled to find it is covered in so much plastic pollution that the ground cannot be seen.

“It’s hard to describe – it’s the worst I’ve seen anywhere in Scotland,” said charity boss Tommy Dale, who took part in a clean-up last weekend. “There are literally billions of bits of plastic breaking down and all round there are oil drums and all sorts of detritus: fishing nets, buoys, milk bottles, water bottles, fish-farm stuff and lots of plastic bags that have broken down.”

The beach clean near Heaste was scheduled to take an afternoon but stretched into a mammoth three-day operation because of the amount of plastic pollution the team discovered.


Dale, who runs Caledonian Horticulture, has just set up a charity to supply boats to help beach cleaners round the country remove the debris they collect.

Project co-ordinator Kerrie Flockhart, who also took part in the Skye beach clean, said the issue was “huge, shocking and heartbreaking”.

“We were going to collect at different places, but when we got to the first bay near Heaste, we ended up staying there three days,” she said. “We plan to clean it as much as we can and then we can see how much is washing up now, as some of it had been there for a long time.”

The idea to set up a charity to provide boats for beach cleans was born after Flockhart took part in a beach clean at the Isle of Ulva off Mull last year and realised one of the problems was removing what was gathered at remote places. That weekend, 75 cubic metres of marine detritus was collected. A boat supplied by a local fish farm took away the litter but such boats are not always available.


The new charity, the Caledonian Environmental Restoration Trust (CERT), currently has the use of a large boat but aims to buy smaller ones that can access remote bays more easily. It is also building links with volunteer beach cleans throughout Scotland to organise “beach blitzes”.

“Local people have the best knowledge, so we want to build up a picture of the worst areas and go to them to help out,” said Flockhart.

The hope is that eventually most of what is gathered can be recycled. The charity is already working with a company called Ocean Plastic Pots that recycles old fishing ropes and has just crowdfunded to buy machinery that can recycle fishboxes.

“Ideally we would like to recycle as much as we can but at the moment it’s really hard,” said Flockhart. “People are recycling but it’s just getting it to the kind of scale we need.”


CERT also organises the Scottish Coastal Clean Up and holds an annual event on World Ocean Day on June 8. In 2021, more than 70 community and family groups covered the coastline between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh over one weekend – and last year it was extended up the coast to Aberdeen.

This year, a clean is organised for the west coast and it is hoped that the whole coastline will be covered by 2025.

To get involved, people are asked to pick a spot on the coast they would like to tackle, then pop a pin in the charity’s online map to show where they will be.

Details such as time and meeting place can be added.

The charity has also set up Facebook groups for the different coastal areas so that volunteers can keep up with the latest news and connect with others in their area.

For more details, you can visit