Why Upstream Battle is important

Our Chief Executive, Derek Robertson, explains why we need to tackle marine litter at source.

To many people, the need to protect our oceans has never been demonstrated more clearly than through pictures of the polluted seas in David Attenborough’s 2017 series “Blue Planet II”. Who can forget the shocking images of wildlife entwined in litter, and the seas that formed a tragic soup of floating plastic waste and bottles? Every year, 12.7 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our seas.

Shocking images from far away, and yet we know that the problem starts much closer to home. We regularly see pictures of our coastline littered with plastic bottles, cans and fast food packaging we have carelessly discarded - some of the worst examples being after winter storms where Scottish beaches are devastated as the ocean offers up some of what we have needlessly thrown away.

In fact, how many of us actually know that at least 80% of all litter in our seas starts life on land. That’s the shocking statistic that has prompted Keep Scotland Beautiful, alongside RECOUP and many other partners, to launch a major new campaign today. Upstream Battle will focus on the River Clyde and its tributaries. It will highlight the part we can all play in protecting our oceans by preventing litter’s journey from land, where it ends up in rivers and is then carried out to sea.

The Clyde is an iconic part of Scotland’s heritage – it’s the reason why Glasgow is where it is. The river has been the very basis for the incredible growth of what is one of the world’s great cities. However, the Clyde’s impact is much greater - from its origins in the Lowther Hills to the Firth of Clyde. We need to look after it, make it cleaner, and in so doing protect our seas.

Our Upstream Battle campaign will offer a chance for local people to do what they do best: roll up their sleeves and take action.  We’ll do that by inspiring people along the entire length of the Clyde to help us in our citizen science monitoring project, and by engaging with schools and communities in the Clyde Valley to highlight the impact that marine litter and plastics have and what we can do to tackle it. Above all, we’ll work to change the individual behaviours that lead to polluted rivers and oceans.

Beach cleaning has clearly got its place, but we can’t keep doing this indefinitely.  We have got to stop the source to sea pathway and prevent marine litter getting to our beaches in the first place. Too many of us think nothing of discarding a crisp bag or drinks bottle, and the evidence shows that a significant proportion of that litter ends up in burns and lochs, which then finds its way into river courses and the open seas. To fix it, we need to win the Upstream Battle, and we are delighted that so many of our partners in this campaign are playing their part.

We’ve established that 88% of people are concerned by the amount of litter in our rivers and on our beaches so we’re asking everyone to come together to do something about it. We’ll be working closely with local authorities along the Clyde to ensure we join up our efforts to improve things, but more than anything else we need everyone to understand that the global ocean litter problem is not someone else’s problem. It’s ours. It’s yours.

This is a first for the Clyde, for Glasgow, and for Scotland. Change starts with a single act. Let yours be getting involved in Upstream Battle.



24 October 2018

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