Eco warrior is on a one-woman mission to clean up Scotland’s beaches

Sorcha Cantwell
Sorcha Cantwell

WHEN Sorcha Cantwell was a child, her local beach was a safe haven for when she felt sad or stressed.

But today, it’s the sorry state of Scotland’s beaches that give her sleepless nights.

Years spent volunteering with the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme has led the 38-year-old from Largs to describe marine plastic as a “silent assassin”.

She’s seen the digestive system of a whale clogged with 4.25kg of plastic and even a deer strangled by washed up fishing nets on the Isle of Lewis.

Horrified by the tonnes of plastic debris that litter our shores, she now devotes all her free time to tidying nearby beaches, rain or shine.

Last month, Sorcha headed north during a two-week break from her call centre job in Greenock.

Her mission was to clear four beaches plastered with plastic on the North and West coast.

The eco warrior admitted seeing 100m of sandy beach in Stoer covered in 100kg of plastic debris was overwhelming.

But sharing an emotional video diary on Facebook brought locals to her aid.

It's a bit damp out there today!! Another 36KG lifted off a very small bit of beach on my home patch. Tide was coming in. Annoyed that I had to use bags. They are being re-used though. #oceanplastic

Posted by Scottish Coastal Clean-up Project on Monday, 28 August 2017

With the extra help, she shifted more than half a tonne of marine plastic in just eight days.

Sorcha spent up to five hours at a time picking up plastic bottles, ropes, bags, netting, buoys, polystyrene and even traffic cones and a washing machine drum – recycling where she could.

An estimated eight million tons of plastic is dumped in the sea every year, and there could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

Finding the seed of an African fruit on a beach in Durness was a stark reminder of just how far items can travel across oceans.

But despite being a global problem, Sorcha says the solution begins at home.

She wants to see more people get involved, even if it’s picking up a plastic bottle here and there.

She also plans to lobby the Government for stricter rules on recycling and would love to see more zero waste shops and alternatives to plastic.

Until then, she still heads out every day to clean up local beaches, whatever the weather.

Visit the Scottish Coastal Cleanup Project Facebook page for more information.