The last week of January saw the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust successfully embarking on an exciting new partnership with Keep Britain Tidy’s Ocean Recovery Project.  The aim?  To recycle all the rigid plastic gathered, from Scilly’s coastline, during Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust facilitated beachcleans.  The first batch of plastics, totalling a huge 1100kg (just over 1 tonne) has now been collected from Penzance Quay, by the Ocean Recovery Project, where it will begin the next stage of its journey; no longer posing a hazard to wildlife in and around Scilly’s seas.

The Scillonian community spend many hours each week removing huge amounts of marine debris deposited on Scilly’s shores by the rolling swells of North Atlantic.  Whether through beachcleans organised by local conservation charity the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust or as individuals the end result is much the same, tonnes of marine debris to dispose of and the dilemma of how?

A 1996 Lobster trap tag from Newfoundland found during a Scilly Beach Clean in 2018The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust collects, sorts and logs the assortment of beachclean waste which is, where possible, salvaged and repurposed by enterprising Islanders; old fish boxes being transformed into flower beds; “ghost” fishing gear starting a new life training runner beans in an allotment; other finds being turned into creative works of art.  However, much of what washes ashore, which can be traced in origin to continental Europe, America, Canada and beyond, is destined for landfill; or it was until now. (Picture right: A 1996 Lobster trap tag from Newfoundland found during a Scilly Beach Clean in 2018)

Nikki Banfield, Communications Officer for the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust said, “The Trust has been at the forefront of cleaning up Scilly’s coastline for many years now and we have no end of helpers from our Island community.  Scilly is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, internationally important for breeding seabirds, and we all know how important this work is; protecting our wildlife and ensuring that Scilly’s renowned and much-loved landscapes and seascapes are looked after.  The difficulty we have is what to do with the marine debris once it’s been collected?”  

Nikki added, “Our Council are fantastic and will always open the Waste & Recycling Centre to enable us to dispose of what we’ve collected, at no cost to us as a charity, but sadly much of what washes ashore isn’t recyclable by the usual methods, or at all.  It’s taken a lot of planning but we’ve found a solution for the bulk of what washes ashore, plastic, thanks to the Ocean Recovery Project”

Neil Hembrow, Ocean Recovery Project Manager continued, “We are thrilled to be able to provide an ongoing recycling solution for beach cleans in the Isles of Scilly.  We need to capture as much plastic as possible from the environment and find innovative solutions for what would otherwise be classed as waste.”

The Scilly beach plastics have been collected by Keep Britain Tidy’s Ocean Recovery Project and will be stored at Exeter City Council, then shredded and granulated at Devon Contract Waste.  Granulating the plastic reduces the space needed for transportation and reduces the carbon footprint of the plastics journey.  From there the shredded Scilly beach plastics will be sent to Chesney Orme at Chestnut Polymers Ltd for further ongoing processing using their latest Patented PRO-TIG technology to convert this waste plastic into useful end products which can replace wood, concrete & steel where currently these materials have inherent problems of rotting, rusting & decaying .These products are suitable for agricultural , horticultural and domestic applications .They will also make decking structures for decking boards, fencing products, both post and rail ,as well as a large variety of other useful applications.

And it is at this stage where the recycling journey from the Isles of Scilly is complete. (Picture left:  Isles of Scilly Steamship Group Shipping container filled with the first shipment of beach plastics)

Nikki concluded, “This endeavour wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group.  They have transported and shipped the marine plastics out of the Islands, again at no cost to us, making this a real community effort and a fine example of what working in partnership can achieve”.

Stuart Reid, Chief Executive of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said: “We are proud to actively support the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and the vital work its team does to help protect and care for Scilly’s natural environment, for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone visiting the islands.  Helping to transport and ship the collected plastics away from the islands is just one of the practical ways we are able to help the Trust in its work, and to support the Ocean Recovery Project to keep our waters clean.”

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust hope to continue this valuable work, keeping Scilly special now and for future generations.  Becoming a Friend of Scilly Wildlife means that they will be able to do just that and so much more!

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust & Marine Debris:

In an average year between 3-5 tonnes of marine debris is removed from the coastline of the Isles of Scilly by Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust led and facilitated beachcleans.  Marine debris has been tracked back to mainland UK, continental Europe (balloons), America (fast food items), Canada (fishing paraphernalia) and plastic items dating back to the 1950’s have been collected and removed.

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