Highlands & Islands

New study examines pollution caused by artificial pitches

Fishing boats Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The study looked at efforts to reduce waste related to the fishing industry

More opportunities for recycling fishing gear and old artificial pitches could help reduce marine pollution, new research has suggested.

Funding for reusable sanitary products as an alternative to single use items as part of efforts to tackle period poverty has also been recommended.

Lost fishing nets, plastic crumbs from pitches and sanitary items flushed down toilets have been found polluting seas.

The study was commissioned by Marine Scotland.

Researchers focused on four "problem products" - fishing equipment, plastic from artificial pitches, single use sanitary products and crisp and sweet packaging.

They said producers needed to make changes to help support, and encourage, consumers' efforts to be more environmentally friendly.

On tackling lost and abandoned fishing gear, the researchers highlighted a pilot project in Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

The town's port made available space where fishing boats could leave rubbish and there was a "leader board" recognising good practice.

The port authority's harbour dues also include a flat fee for all types of vessels for waste disposal.

Researchers said there were challenges to these solutions. They said not all ports could afford to offer similar incentives and even if waste was managed appropriately the vast majority currently ended up in landfill and was not recycled.

To tackle pollution from plastic pitches, researchers said "appropriate waste management infrastructure and enforcement" was essential.

Tiny fragments of plastic from the pitches have been found in marine pollution.

The study said it had been suggested some waste pitches were being stored indefinitely or handled illegally. It recommended "green" standards for the purchase and disposal of artificial pitches could help.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Crumbs of plastic from artificial pitches have been found in marine pollution

Encouraging greater use of reusable sanitary products was suggested in the research, but it also acknowledged barriers to this included the higher cost of these items and a preference among some women for more convenient single use products.

Lower cost, single use items were also being offered free in the effort to tackle period poverty and researchers said funding would be needed to help charities to offer alternatives.

The study quoted a 2018 beach clean survey that found sewage-related debris, which included sanitary products, accounted for 12.6% of coastal litter in Scotland.

Meanwhile, manufacturers, governments and consumers would need to work together to stop crisp, snack and sweet packaging polluting the environment.

Researchers said: "As with other products there is no single silver bullet and any intervention would benefit from a holistic approach."

Suggested solutions included increasing the recyclability of packaging.

Researchers added that manufacturers were awaiting the results of a UK-wide consultation carried out last year on packaging reform.

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