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The state of Scotland's coast: mapping coastal litter from the air

Looking for litter on Mull ©SCRAPbook_UKCAP


Scotland's west coast is wild, rugged and very beautiful. Many beaches are off the beaten track and offer unrivalled quiet and tranquility. Sadly, many of these beaches are no longer untouched by human influence.


Litter photographed at Loch Nan Uamh in 2018 ©SCRAPbook_UKCAP


Until recently, the scale of the coastal litter problem was difficult to fully understand. Most of what was known about the distribution of litter was from beach cleans, but these are focused around larger towns and regularly frequented beaches.

The 'Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography' (SCRAPbook) project was set up by a group of pilots from the UK Civil Air Patrol Skywatch organisation and the Moray Firth Partnership to map litter on Scotland's coasts using aerial images shot from planes.


One of the Skywatch aircraft in action ©UKCAP


Using the power of citizen science and a team of excellent volunteers, pictures are classified to build a map showing the distribution of litter on Scotland's coasts (

This map can be used to target cleaning activities to where they are needed most. It also helps potential beach cleaners assess the size of the litter and the accessibility of the area so that the best approach can be taken.


SCRAPbook map (based on 2018 litter surveys) ©SCRAPbook


During 2018, SCRAPbook assessed Scotland's mainland coast, identifying over 5,500 litter locations. In 2019 we have flown the Orkney Islands and Mull and are working on a repeat survey of the mainland so that we can start to identify trends over time and see where litter hotspots persist.

SCRAPbook has two Marine Litter Officers, working in the Argyll area. They work closely with local businesses and the community to carry out cleans and identify how best to dispose of the material collected. 

This sometimes involves thinking outside the box - recently they have been working with Green Shoots Walled Garden, in Glencruitten, Oban, to repurpose damaged mussel floats as raised planting beds and pontoon floats for fresh water collection, composting bins or storage of garden supplies!


Marine Litter Officers at work on the Argyll coast ©SCRAPbook.


We have recently teamed up with CalMac to engage with staff and island communities to spread the word and make use of our map. We are seeking support to fly and assess the Western Isles so that the marine litter issue there can be brought into greater awareness and informed action undertaken to help restore and protect these idyllic wild locations.

We are keen to hear about any beach cleaning activities at SCRAPbook identified locations, and any opportunities for engagement.

Together we can work to restore and protect our seas and coasts.


If you would like to find out more about the project or get involved, please visit our:

Website -  SCRAPbook

Twitter -  SCRAPbook Twitter

Instagram -  SCRAPbook Instagram

Email -



SCRAPbook engagement event (with the Marine Conservation Society) ©SCRAPbook.

SCRAPbook is an initiative led by Moray Firth Partnership (Scottish Charity No. SCO28964) and Sky Watch UK Civil Air Patrol Scottish Charity No. SCO42026.


Blog by Sophie Green, SCRAPbook Technical Coordinator.

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