Precious plastic in the Scottish Highlands
I am very keen to set up a recycling center for my community here on the isle of Eigg.
We have stunning beaches and unfortunately like many places have heaps of plastic washing up.
We have, individually, very talented people in our community with a very wide skill base. And I am sure with a little help we can make our own machines and get recycling. This project would also generate income for our island aswel as job opportunities
Is anybody within Scotland or indeed the wider UK available to give any advice 🙂
Just saying hello, and excited by your cleaning beaches in Eigg!
Welcome to the community
I actually wrote a fairly long reply to your post a couple of days ago. Immediately after submitting it, I noticed a typo – so quickly went back in to edit the text. When I came back out, the whole reply had disappeared! Something must have screwed up in the forum software (and changes/improvements to the forum software are being debated elsewhere on here).
Unfortunately I can’t remember everything from my old reply – but I’ll try again (this time in short chunks!)
You’ll find that this community has an unusually wide range of users, geographically. There are plenty of people here living on small islands around the world, so hopefully thier experiences will be able to read across, in some ways, to your situation in Eigg. Of course every island has some unique features – such as climate, proximity to mainland countries with greater or lesser technological infrastructure, and location relative to garbage-transporting sea currents.
I guess those of us living far from the sea (as I do at the moment) will have a different perspective on the problems – but all discussions help, I think.
(p.s. I lived 2 minutes walk from the beach, in Cumbria, for a decade back in the 90s – so have some appreciation of the problems you must be facing). 😉
First the bad news. You’ll find a number of past discussions within these forums, about “Beach Plastic”. Unfortunately it seems that the stuff washed up on the shore is not really suitable as a feedstock for the Precious Plastics machines – or for most other sorts of recycling, for that matter.
The reasons people have quoted include:
– Degradation of physical properties of some plastics due to the action of seawater and UV light.
– The the plastics are heavily infused with salt, sand and algae, due to their time at sea, contaminants which are difficult to remove.
– Identification and sorting can be difficult.
Maybe people with more experience of beach-waste can comment.
In some ways, the issues of removing plastic beach litter (and other garbage), and those of recycling plastics, are quite separate. Even if there was a highly effective “recycling station” on the island – the beach garbage would still need to be regularly collected, confined, and sorted. These are labour intensive activities. Is this already happening as part of the general community activities on the island? How is the normal domestic waste handled on Eigg? Is it retained on the island, and buried? Is it exported to the mainland on the ferry? Are people already paid to clean the beaches to keep them looking nice for the tourists?
There is a very interesting project website at the University of Strathclyde on the thermal energy issues on the island.
It seems that all fossil and biomass fuels are imported, via the ferry, from the mainland. This makes them expensive (quite apart from the issues of fossil carbon usage).
One idea not mentioned (as far as I can see), within the project, is that of converting beach plastic to liquid fuel through pyrolysis. Plastic to fuel pyrolysis has been discussed in these forums elsewhere.
Now I’m guessing that, for various ideological reasons, this might be a step too far for the current inhabitants of Eigg. However, considering that it could displace expensive fuel imports, and create a financial incentive for people to collect plastic that regularly washes up on the beaches, then it might be worth at least a few thoughts 😉
Excellent article from the Scottish Geographical Journal, in 2016, highlighting some of the economic and environmental issues of the island:
It is an open access paper, and can also be downloaded as a PDF.
One section describes how all waste is currently exported from the island on the ferry. There is no landfill, or other on-island disposal. As nearly all food, and other consumables, are imported from the mainland there is obviously quite a problem with the build-up of packaging waste. The relatively high influx of tourists (compared to the population) makes this worse – and so visitors to the island are encouraged to take all their garbage home with them when they leave.
This suggests that, instead of using beach plastic, a Precious Plastic operation could be set up to recycle residents’ plastic packaging instead. This would reduce the bulk of the waste currently transported from the island – by possibly making artifacts that could be sold to tourists.
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