Edinburgh beaches among dirtiest in UK

Cramond beach has come in for criticism. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Cramond beach has come in for criticism. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Edinburgh’s beaches are among the dirtiest in the UK, according to a new survey.

The findings, from an annual beach clean by the charity Marine Conservation Society (MCS), revealed Capital shores are strewn with the highest concentration of litter in Scotland.

Although the UK-wide survey shows an overall drop in rubbish washed up on Scottish beaches in 2014, the proportion of bathroom waste has almost doubled since 2013.

Wet wipes, nappies, condoms and cotton buds are among the most commonly found items, but the quantity of wipes more than trebled in just 12 months.

Edinburgh’s most rubbish-strewn shoreline is at Cramond.

Environmentalists are blaming the increasing number of wipes on offer, many of which are labelled as flushable despite being made of materials that are slow to break down.

Calum Duncan, MCS programme manager for Scotland, says this encourages people to throw them down the toilet instead of in the bin, leading to blocked pipes, burst waste filters and littering. He warned that everyone across the country must change their habits.

“Our sewerage systems weren’t built to cope with wet wipes,” he said.

“When flushed they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper, and they typically contain plastic so once they reach the sea they last for a very long time.

“They can cause blockages in our sewers, and then everything else that has been flushed down the loo can either back up into people’s homes or overflow into rivers and seas.”

The findings showed coastlines around highly populated estuaries are worst hit.

Mr Duncan added: “Like many beaches on estuaries, firths and other semi-enclosed coasts near large urban centres, Cramond can suffer from accumulations of wet wipes, cotton buds and other sanitary items.”

Bagging and binning sanitary waste is “the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way” of preserving Scotland’s shores, he said.

Lindsay Paterson, councillor for the Almond ward, said the figures were disappointing as beach litter is bad for residents, the environment and tourism.

She said: “When I’ve done the beach clean myself I’ve found a high proportion of wet wipes, cotton buds and even nappies that people have flushed down the loo, which seems crazy. These things should be going in the bin, not down the toilet.

“It is worrying, so it is important that people know how to dispose of these items properly and realise that if they don’t it will have a damaging effect on our local environment.”

More than 13,000 items of litter were found per kilometre of coastline around Edinburgh. This is more than seven times the Scottish average of 1800 items and over five times as bad as the UK as a whole.

Mr Duncan stressed the survey did not cover all UK beaches and the figures do not suggest Edinburgh residents have worse habits than people elsewhere.

Bathroom waste increased throughout the country, while the overall amount of beach rubbish rose by 6.4 per cent.

Marine litter costs Scotland around £16.8 million every year, and impacts on the environment, wildlife and tourism.


AIR pollution warnings have been issued in parts of West Lothian after levels in Scotland hit a three-year high.

Environmental campaigners said sufferers of asthma and other respiratory conditions should follow Scottish Government advice to avoid outdoor exertion.

Air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland Emilia Hanna said: “Pollution from road traffic is the key cause.”