Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust Embarks on Beach Plastics Recycling Partnership

Monday 9th October 2017

Terracycle Bags ready to goTerracycle Bags ready to go

Tuesday 10th October 2017 is a pretty special date for us here at the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust. It is the date that our first batch of beach and marine plastics, collected from beach cleans over the past few months, is being shipped out of the Islands to be recycled!

by Nikki Banfield ~ IoSWT Communications Officer

If you live on Scilly you will have no doubt been involved in a beach clean, or two, in one way or another (if you haven't then it's not too late to get started!?)  We have a lot of marine debris wash up on our shores, it's sadly one of the givens when you live on an Island.  We dutifully collect it up, for a variety of reasons: it makes us feel good, it's good for the environment, it's good for our wildlife, it gives a better impression to our visitors...but then we are struck with the dilema of what to do with what we've collected...and this is where things now get interesting!

It all started with an email enquiry on the last day of June in 2017.  I happened across a post on FaceBook which mentioned Terracycle; clicking on the link I discovered by chance that not only do Terracycle recycle all sorts of household and industrial waste but Terracycle also have a Beach Plastics Recycling Programme

Having looked at the programme, signing up for more information and discussing it with the rest of the Team, I emailed Terracycle Customer Support:  

"I’m really keen for the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust to be a part of the Beach Plastic Programme and have been looking into it but just wanted to touch base, say hello and ask a few questions really before going too crazy and getting too excited, as it seems it could be perfect for us!"

Going on to explain the foibles of Island life and that it wouldn't simply be a case of "collecting" the plastics from an address on the Mainland UK, I asked for them to give me an indication of whether or not we could "sign-up".

I was fully prepared for Terracycle to respond and say "Thank you for your interest, but no thank you"; however after a couple of email exchanges and a telephone conversation with Terracycles's Strategic Partnerships Project Lead, Katie, the words "Although the islands pose logistical challenges I am confident that we can make it work" appeared in an email.  I immediately forwarded this email on to our CEO, Sarah, with just the word "Eeek!" as an explanation; to say I was excited was a bit of an understatement!

From Eeek to Shipping...

Since these conversations in June a lot of work has gone in to getting our initial shipment ready to go and I have to say we are incredibly grateful to a number of individuals and organisations for helping us to make this possible (a list of those who have supported and helped us can be found at the end of this article).

I originally started 2017 with the plan to collect and store all of the plastic bottles I gathered from around Scilly's coastline.  Why?  Because I wanted to be able to not only count how many were collected but show people what this actually looked like at the end of the year.  A number doesn't mean a lot when presented to most people but physically seeing what that number looks like, that's a whole different ball game. 

By the end of May I had two pallet crates full of just bottles outside of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust Offices (not including the 919 gathered during the Great Scilly Spring Clean) and a Team that were watching me with ever increasing looks of concern in their eyes.  I think they genuinely thought I was going mad...

In addition to this I was also surveying the majority of the Beach Clean waste which was being collected from around our Islands; starting to build up a picture of not only how much we were collecting but what we were collecting as well.  Weirdly, five Toilet Brushes in various states of decay have been picked up during beach cleans this year, and large parts two fridge freezers!

Various organised events have taken place during 2017:

As well as a huge number of #2MinuteBeachCleans at each of our events this summer and ad hoc cleans carried out by individuals and groups across the Islands. 

To date, just through our organised cleans and #2MinuteBeachCleans, during 2017 we, as a community, have removed just under TWO TONNES of marine debris from our beaches and coastline.  Through surveying and monitoring we can say that approximately 75% of the total volume of debris collected is rigid plastic; which means it can be taken by Terracycle and recycled!

So, I've been delving through bags of marine debris, sorting and seperating and we've now got to the point where our first shipment is ready to exit the Islands. 

A total of four large dumpy bags are now ready to go.  Crammed with all sorts of rigid plastics found on our beaches and around our coastline: bottles, buckets, broken fish boxes, parts of cars, abandoned children's beach toys (the recovered wheelie bin will have to wait until the next round!); it truly is amazing what ends up washing in on our beaches and from where.

...and beyond...

So, what happens next?  Well the plastics are embarking on a whole new journey; travelling from Scilly to Lancashire, initially, to begin life again as something different; they will no longer be single use plastics, lost at sea or littering our coastline and beaches; threatening our environment & wildlife.

Terracycle have two main big brand names that are set to use the beach plastics in their recycled product packaging the first is Head & Shoulders and the second, announced just recently, is Fairy.  

The Isles of Scilly Wildife Trust is really pleased to be a part of this initiative and over the winter we will be working on ways to make the collection of marine debris and marine plastics a whole lot easier, across the Islands.

This year has been a massive learning curve and we hope that those of you that walk the coastlines regularly will see the difference that this small concerted effort has made. 

We plan to make next years effort even bigger and better!  


  • Katie & Monika and the rest of the Terracycle Team for being incredibly solution focused and wanting to make this happen as much as we do;
  • Sue, Gemma & the Freight Teams on both St Mary's & Penzance Quays at the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company for all their support and hard work in sorting out the shipping logistics;
  • Russ Thompson and the rest of the Waste Collection Team (Council of the Isles of Scilly) for arranging collection and disposal of the marine debris which isn't being shipped away to be recycled;
  • St Agnes Boating & St Mary's Boatman's Association for assisting in shipping collected marine debris from our off-islands (both inhabited and uninhabited).
  • All of the individuals and community groups who have supported and attended cleans this year across the Islands.

Tagged with: Living Seas