Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marine Litter and Ganavan Sands....natural perfection?

Marine litter is a serious and complex problem that impacts the coastline in every country. It is pervasive, difficult to control, and requires a mix of education and enforcement approaches. Once in the marine environment, plastics directly impact marine mammals, birds, fish and coastal systems; impact marine activities such as fishing, tourism and recreation; and reduce the beauty of the coastal environment for all. Insidiously, marine plastics do not biodegrade, they slowly break up into 'micro-plastics' which move through the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years and eventually enter the food chain. Importantly, marine and coastal litter requires a sense of awareness of the scale of the problem matched with a sense of local ownership and empowerment. Since a considerable amount of litter enters the marine environment from the land, action from communities is a critical element of solving the problem.

Ganavan Sands is a local public coastal space combined with a beachfront residential development situated in Oban in the UK. The area is a part of the scenic and beautiful Highlands and Islands region of the West Coast of Scotland.The signage for Ganavan Sands clearly states the selling point of the development as 'inspired by...natural perfection', and is located in an area of important coastal habitat. The local waters are home to basking sharks, dolphins, common and grey seals, a variety of seabirds and inshore habitats. Unfortunately, the 'natural perfection' slogan appears to only extend to the devleopment's sales pitch, in actual fact, the reality is quite different.

The following unsavory pictures were taken on a recent visit to visit to Ganavan. A considerable amount of the source of the rubbish was from the building site adjacent to the beach. Many plastic items used in residential construction have found there way to the beach due to poor and substandard waste management practices by the construction group. These items will be washed out in the tides to affect marine life, marine users, and significantly impact local amenity.

Not quite the 'panoramic sea views, beautiful sandy beaches, and breathtaking landscapes' as highlighted in the welcome on the developer's website Ganavan Sands. In fact, pretty much the opposite. Fortunately, the local authority, Argyll and Bute Council have left their details on the sign in the public car park, and Sustainable Seas will be making further inquires to make sure the beach is cleaned up and the polluter pays principal is applied in the context of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. At a minimum Sustainable Seas calls for the implementation and enforcement of a Litter Control Area under the Act. If you want to know more about how to act on litter, Keep Scotland Beautiful publish a great leaflet: Litter and the Law in Scotland. Also, we encourage you to make contact with the local authority and the developer directly and express your views. Marine litter is everyone's problem.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the situation and will report progress on this blog.

Natural perfection?? I don't think so.


  1. Marine litter concerns us all. I am glad this article was written, that someone had the courage to speak. This is a small and vibrant community with many links between families and were most people know each other. I hope this does not get in the way of speaking out the truth and taking action to lessen the effects that poor waste management may have on our local environment. This article could be the start of a positive development towards more awareness in our community were we all, not only scientists or council employees, but we all actively participate in different ways to make sure we protect what we have not only for us and for future generations but also because is the right thing to do since nature has also an intrinsic value in it self. We all have it.

  2. caroline sallochyApril 13, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    Everyone who uses Ganavan should contact the developer and the council to get this litter sorted, not just for now but also to ensure that their building litter does not get to the beach again but is securly disposed of (not in open skips)and as an extra caution the builders who are creating this waste should be responsible for checking the beach is free from litter at the end of each day.

  3. I have been down to the beach tonight, and it is cleaner than before, likely washed out to sea from the tides and storms. However the western end is still strewn with rubbish, with foam and insulation coming off the site onto the beach. While the amount changes on a daily basis, the overall cumulative impact on the coast is a big problem.
    I agree...better waste management practices are needed on site - not one bin on the site today! Litter everywhere just waiting to go under or over the barrier. Please get in touch with the council and developer and make your voice heard.

  4. Off to meet the developer today..lets see what happens.....

  5. Ive had a productive and civil meeting with the developer and they have indicated they they will keep an eye on problem and continue to clean up litter from the site. We should also see some bins and covers on the site and increased awareness of the employees about litter.

    The developer correctly pointed out 2 issues: 1)that public litter is still a problem in the area and needs to be addressed; and 2) I was the first person to raise the issue.

    I think these are linked....it is everyones responsibility to be aware and to say something when there is a problem and we can all do our part to address this problem.

    If anyone has a local beach that has a litter problem and wants to raise it here - get in touch. We'll post it (and the pics) to keep raising awareness.

  6. Good news, it seems that things may well improve :) It is great to have a space like this one to cummunicate important marine related issues in a constructive manner. Looking forward to a cleaner beach and well managed waste at the site.