Team KSB's #UpstreamBattle data day along the Clyde

A blog post by Fiona Gallie

Fiona Gallie
Campaigns Officer (Marine Litter)

Posted 05/01/2024

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At the beginning of December last year, members of the campaigns team at Keep Scotland Beautiful spent a Friday completing and collating litter surveys along the Clyde walkway within Glasgow. Our Upstream Battle Officer Fiona Gallie took part and here she shares her experience, along with her advice for those considering doing a survey as part of our Upstream Battle Week of Action.

Our Campaigns Officers Eve and Heather with some of the litter they picked

We began the day by splitting into two teams and starting at separate points of the riverbank so that we could gather data from different areas. We completed surveys every 500m and litter picked as we went, finding a variety of interesting items on the way. The top litter find was snack packets, followed by cigarette butts and then drinks cans. From the expected to the unexpected, we also found a frozen pillow, a dining room chair and even a toilet! 

As well as ticking off our daily step target, we were collecting data as part of our Upstream Battle campaign, aiming to change littering behaviour and prevent marine litter at source by removing it from beside rivers in Scotland so it can not flow into the sea.  

The campaign launched on the River Clyde in 2018 and then expanded to include the River Tay in 2021. Now we are taking the campaign national - to rivers across Scotland.  We aim to raise awareness, encourage citizen science (collecting data) and collaborate with community groups and businesses to organise litter survey and litter pick events.  

We would like as many people as possible to get involved with our Upstream Battle by surveying local riverbanks, loch sides and water courses to help us understand the problems we face. This will also allow us to build a national data set which will help inform future policy.  

It was great to be able to conduct the Citizen Science surveys that we are asking communities, businesses and individuals to do as it has really given us a better understanding of what we are asking of them. The day was a learning curve for us all to see how our survey worked, not just on paper, but on the ground. This has helped us improve and add value to both our survey guide and survey sheet by getting input from the whole team.  

You don’t spend five hours completing litter surveys without learning a thing or two, so if you’re planning to help us by completing your own, here are a few tips we recommend.

A shopping trolley sits on the banks of the river Clyde

1. Location, location, location…

Choose a spot near a river that is easily accessible. In bigger towns and cities like Glasgow, the riverside can be more built up and industrial so it can take a while to get close enough to the water so I would suggest choosing locations along a riverbank that have a shorter distance to walk to.

2. Surveying and picking 

We found that litter picking and surveying at the same time can be time consuming, so it was helpful to have a couple of people in the group going ahead so they can start surveying and then another group litter picking behind them. For less littered areas it is easier to do a pick at the same time as a survey as one person can pick and call out the items and the other person can tally up each item found.   

All kinds of things can be found at the sides of our rivers

3. Getting your steps in 

Our group did 20,000 steps throughout the day, so it felt like good exercise! For this reason, comfortable walking shoes are essential to avoid sore feet at the end of a long day. 

4. Layers, layers, layers 

It was a very cold December day when we did our surveys so wearing layers including thermals kept me warm. A hot drink stop is also a must for heating up and if you need a caffeine boost - pack your flask.

For anyone that would like to join in our campaign, we are holding a Week of Action from 20 – 28 January, with the aim of getting new and existing communities involved by collaborating and hosting events in Scotland to gather surveys on rivers.

There will also be public events organised by #TeamKSB, including events in Stirling, Inverness, Dumfries, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

We would love it if you could get involved to help us stop marine litter at source, so please email upstreambattle@keepscotlandbeautiful.org or contact Fiona or Eve to find out more.

Get in touch with:
Fiona Gallie
Campaigns Officer (Marine Litter)
Get in touch with:
Eve Gadd
Campaigns Officer (Marine Litter)

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