Help To Keep Our Beaches Clean


Catriona Spink helping a small boat pull in to the shore

Nothing feels more like summer than a trip to the seaside. And, if we all lend a hand, we can do our bit to help keep our beaches clean. One lady who is doing just that is Catriona Spink. Bill Gibb caught up with this inspirational lady earlier this year to find out more.

Mountain Of Plastic Washed Up

Catriona Spink first came to the Hebridean isle of Tiree for sporty fun, attracted by the windsurfing, but she stayed for the lifestyle and the sheer stunning beauty.

Now, Catriona has made it her mission to preserve that beauty by clearing the beaches of the mountain of plastic washed up by the tides. With the help of others she has inspired, she is starting to see her efforts bear fruit and the sands once more showing their natural wonders.

Catriona, originally from Yorkshire, first visited Tiree more than 35 years ago. “I was living in Glasgow and met people who were top windsurfers and came along with them,” Catriona says.

“I got hooked on both windsurfing and Tiree. It was the unspoiled nature of this place, fifty miles from the mainland, and the people, who were so friendly and accepting. It’s a very busy pace of life, but I love it.”

Catriona returned regularly and made the move permanently with her two daughters in the 2000s. She’s a volunteer firefighter and also an artist, creating and selling her work at a shop and workshop she built herself.

Waste From All Over The World

Walking the coastline years ago, she would see wooden boxes and hemp ropes from the fishing industry washed up. The materials changed, and the quantities grew over time.

“You’d pick up odd bits of plastic as you walked, and that would be the beach clear,” Catriona recalls. “Then it got worse and worse. You couldn’t take a photograph without there being a bit of plastic in it.

“By 2015 it was horrific, with every metre of the beach having something. You would clear three or four sackloads and it would make no difference.”

The tide brings plastic and other waste from all over the world. Catriona has seen packaging from as far as China and Japan, bottles with Arabic writing and fish boxes from Canada. In just one clean she recorded more than 2,000 pieces of plastic in a 40-metre stretch of beach.

Clean-ups Have Made A Massive Difference

Realising she needed more help, Catriona set up OceanGives on Facebook, and has been amazed by the volunteers who have travelled to give their time. Although she often does her own clean-ups weekly, the group clean-ups have made a massive difference.

In just one 10-hour session, over 100 kgs of fishing gear and nearly 10 kgs of household rubbish was picked up. “We had one with seventy participants, which was amazing, and led to an area that was inundated being deep cleaned,” Catriona says. “We had primary school children from Glasgow come for three days and work with our primary school.

“We had sixty kids along to the beach; it was lovely to see them get involved.” Word even spread to chef and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who got in touch when visiting the island and came along to join a group clean-up.

Much of the detritus on Tiree is from fishing gear, and Catriona regularly sees the man-made ropes disintegrate into damaging microfibres as soon as she touches them. She’d love to see the fishing industry return to using natural fibres for ropes.

Clean Beaches Week

Catriona Spink.

There is a long way to go, but Catriona says OceanGives is making a difference. “There are areas that used to be covered in plastic, and I’m now enjoying seeing stones and all the natural things that should be there,” Catriona explains.

“I went for a walk on a two-mile stretch recently and came back with just a small bag of plastic I’d picked up, which was a lovely change.”

Catriona is running a beach clean with the Tiree Music Festival, through OceanGives, on Saturday morning, July 9.

You can lend a hand elsewhere in the country with many local beach clean-ups organised by the likes of National Trust.

Yvonne McKenzie

I work on the Features team and admit to being nosy, so I love looking after the Between Friends letters and finding out all about our lovely readers. I also look after our health copy and enjoy writing about inspiring people that help make the articles in the magazine so interesting.

Help To Keep Our Beaches Clean

Catriona Spink helping a small boat pull in to the shore

Nothing feels more like summer than a trip to the seaside. And, if we all lend a hand, we can do our bit to help keep our beaches clean. One lady who is doing just that is Catriona Spink. Bill Gibb caught up with this inspirational lady earlier this year to find out more.

Mountain Of Plastic Washed Up

Catriona Spink first came to the Hebridean isle of Tiree for sporty fun, attracted by the windsurfing, but she stayed for the lifestyle and the sheer stunning beauty.

Now, Catriona has made it her mission to preserve that beauty by clearing the beaches of the mountain of plastic washed up by the tides. With the help of others she has inspired, she is starting to see her efforts bear fruit and the sands once more showing their natural wonders.

Catriona, originally from Yorkshire, first visited Tiree more than 35 years ago. “I was living in Glasgow and met people who were top windsurfers and came along with them,” Catriona says.

“I got hooked on both windsurfing and Tiree. It was the unspoiled nature of this place, fifty miles from the mainland, and the people, who were so friendly and accepting. It’s a very busy pace of life, but I love it.”

Catriona returned regularly and made the move permanently with her two daughters in the 2000s. She’s a volunteer firefighter and also an artist, creating and selling her work at a shop and workshop she built herself.

Waste From All Over The World

Walking the coastline years ago, she would see wooden boxes and hemp ropes from the fishing industry washed up. The materials changed, and the quantities grew over time.

“You’d pick up odd bits of plastic as you walked, and that would be the beach clear,” Catriona recalls. “Then it got worse and worse. You couldn’t take a photograph without there being a bit of plastic in it.

“By 2015 it was horrific, with every metre of the beach having something. You would clear three or four sackloads and it would make no difference.”

The tide brings plastic and other waste from all over the world. Catriona has seen packaging from as far as China and Japan, bottles with Arabic writing and fish boxes from Canada. In just one clean she recorded more than 2,000 pieces of plastic in a 40-metre stretch of beach.

Clean-ups Have Made A Massive Difference

Realising she needed more help, Catriona set up OceanGives on Facebook, and has been amazed by the volunteers who have travelled to give their time. Although she often does her own clean-ups weekly, the group clean-ups have made a massive difference.

In just one 10-hour session, over 100 kgs of fishing gear and nearly 10 kgs of household rubbish was picked up. “We had one with seventy participants, which was amazing, and led to an area that was inundated being deep cleaned,” Catriona says. “We had primary school children from Glasgow come for three days and work with our primary school.

“We had sixty kids along to the beach; it was lovely to see them get involved.” Word even spread to chef and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who got in touch when visiting the island and came along to join a group clean-up.

Much of the detritus on Tiree is from fishing gear, and Catriona regularly sees the man-made ropes disintegrate into damaging microfibres as soon as she touches them. She’d love to see the fishing industry return to using natural fibres for ropes.

Clean Beaches Week

Catriona Spink.

There is a long way to go, but Catriona says OceanGives is making a difference. “There are areas that used to be covered in plastic, and I’m now enjoying seeing stones and all the natural things that should be there,” Catriona explains.

“I went for a walk on a two-mile stretch recently and came back with just a small bag of plastic I’d picked up, which was a lovely change.”

Catriona is running a beach clean with the Tiree Music Festival, through OceanGives, on Saturday morning, July 9.

You can lend a hand elsewhere in the country with many local beach clean-ups organised by the likes of National Trust.

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