Looking around my desk right now, without opening any of the drawers below it, I can count 14 pieces of plastic. Two are single-use, one of which is recyclable: a plastic bottle. The other 12, to my knowledge, are non-recyclable. One day, when their purpose is spent, they will end up in landfill. It is estimated that 12 billion metric tons of plastic will be in the same position by the year 2050. The plastic that doesn’t end up in landfill, and indeed even some that does, often eventually ends up in the ocean.
The wave of plastic flowing into our seas is nothing short of out of control. Aggregations of debris the size of countries are forming in open spaces, seabirds are chowing down on plastic instead of fish, and mircoplastics are being detected as far from civilisation as the Arctic circle. The situation is dire, not least for the marine wildlife of the world, which is consuming, becoming trapped in, and often dying from both the direct and indirect effects of marine plastic pollution.
I spent two weeks over Easter on the Aberdeenshire coast documenting this crisis, and how the local community of activists, conservationists, and civilians are trying to combat it. Unfortunately, as the Springtime weather in Scotland often dictates, filming was hampered considerably for the majority of the time I was there. I think I managed three days without rain out of the 14 I was there: one on the beach; one with Surfers against Sewage; and one with RSPB Scotland. And although I tried my best to make the most of these few opportunities, I will almost certainly need to return in the summer to pick up a few missing shots.
The final film itself is a while off being finished yet – I only just got back this week – but I managed to piece together a couple of ‘sneak peaks’ while I was up there. They were originally made as web clips for my Instagram, but I’ve resorted to putting them on YouTube as well now that the wait for the finished product has been extended. They’re both available to watch on my Turning the Tide page here.
The topic of marine plastic pollution is not a novel one. It was on the back burner for years before Blue Planet II catapulted it in to the public eye. Since then, it’s been the subject of countless films, research projects, exposés, and photo stories; I am by no means the first to document this pressing issue. But I hope that my film will tackle it in a way that most don’t: by showing ordinary people what they can do to actively help fix it and repair what damage has already been done. Because believe me, even on this tiny stretch of Scottish coastline, it’s extensive.