Clean beaches make economic sense

Octane expeditions are reliant upon Hebridean natural wilderness, a landscape passed down through generations of crofters and the rich biodiversity within.

As a result of violent storms, pollution and dumping at sea, beaches can be littered with flotsam, often hundreds of metres beyond the high tide line onto the machair wild grassland habitat.

Perhaps naively, visitors to the Hebridean coast expect pristine beaches perhaps not realising that even the remote Galapagos beaches are now strewn with the clutter of our material world.

Beach flotsam

From Nike trainers and Bic razors to Samsonite suitcases and Mobil oil drums – nobody wants to accept responsibility for the tonnes of rubbish on our shores, least of all the manufacturers.


On 13 February 1997 the container ship Tokio Express was hit by a wave knocking 62 containers into the Atlantic, one of them containing 4.8 million pieces of Lego. The pieces, which strangely had a maritime theme (octopus, pirates, divers, scuba kit, ship rigging net, life preservers and spear guns), are washed up on British beaches every year and there is even a popular Facebook Lego Flotsam collectors’ page. Apparently the octopus is the most rare and considered the Holy Grail of swapsies.

However, there is a darker side. The estimated 165 million tons of plastic debris in the world’s oceans are worn down by sea action and enter the food chain as micro-particles, firstly being ingested by small seabed roaming organisms and then rising through the food chain the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are finally consumed by humans.

Garbage patch

Larger meso-particles are eaten by albatross and turtle and are fed directly to their offspring – it is estimated that one-third of all albatross chicks die as a result.

There is a floating island of plastic in the Pacific called the great Pacific garbage patch. It is estimated the island weighs 100 million tonnes in plastic particles. There is a vague and equally ambitious plan to clean it up using floating filters and booms to harvest the plastics for their recycled value.

Shipping container companies deem it safer to keep cargo loose on deck and, accordingly, one errant wave results in many taking a tumble. The Captain of the Tokio Express happily brushed the issue under the carpet saying the culprit wave was a “once in a hundred-year phenomenon”.  The BBC estimates the number of containers lost at sea in 2014 alone was 2,683.

Meanwhile, manufacturers wash their hands of the issue – Lego spokeswoman Emma Owen simply said the incident “had nothing to do with the Lego Group activities”. The company then had the audacity to launch a PR campaign leaving life sized Lego men, called Ego Leonard, on beaches around the world.

Consumer problem

Clearly the responsibility for beach clean-ups has been left in the hands of consumers – for it is they who create the demand. Martin Dorey has started a national campaign encouraging beach goers to pick up plastics at the day’s end.

The campaign is called the ‘2 Minute Beach Clean’

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