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Beach Clean Champions: Pick Up Peterhead’s nine years of outstanding community efforts

Theresa Ritchie at Craigewan Beach in Peterhead.
Theresa Ritchie at Craigewan Beach in Peterhead.

As a fishing town, Peterhead has always depended on the health of the North Sea, and one community group has gone above and beyond to protect it.

Pick Up Peterhead has for the past nine years organised all manner of beach cleans and litter-picks all along the area’s coastline and throughout its green spaces to keep rubbish out of the water, and prevent it from harming the marine ecosystem.

From individuals taking bin bags on their daily strolls to organised clean-ups of up to 50 people, the organisation is dedicated to making Peterhead’s coastline safe for humans and wildlife alike.

Mental health benefits, fresh air, and friendship

Theresa Ritchie at Craigewan Beach at Peterhead, with a collection of rubbish she picked up in just a short period.

Theresa Ritchie is one of the founders of the group and explained there are all kinds of benefits to cleaning up her local environment.

She explained that Pick Up Peterhead originated online, as the community embraced the power of social media to organise and carry out litter-picks.

Theresa said: “There’s just a sense of satisfaction seeing a really filthy area, and an hour later you turn around and it’s beautifully clean again, especially on a beach.

“It’s good for mental health, gets you healthy fresh air, and meeting people.

“It kind of started when social media started, we discovered the biggest complaint people had about the town was litter and dog mess, so we started really small, it got a bit bigger, and we realised there’s a mess out there.

“We tackle beaches, green spaces, and sometimes the town centre as well.

The remains of a creel and other maritime gear lodged into the dunes at Craigewan Beach, Peterhead

“It’s nine years we’ve been doing it, and I must say it hasn’t really got any better unfortunately, and with the pandemic, it’s worsened even more.

“We’re been going out in small groups during lockdown, and individuals too, to carry on doing things.”

Burger boxes and fishing gear

Due to Peterhead’s fishing industry, a great deal of the rubbish collected on beaches in the area like Craigewan Beach is from fishing boats, such as rope and industry-standard blue gloves.

A standard fishing industry blue glove poking out of the sand at Craigewan Beach. These gloves are frequently spotted littering the north-east coastline.

And at the Lido beach, located within the Peterhead Bay marina, Theresa explained a frequent find is discarded takeaway boxes from the fast-food restaurants in the town.

She continued: “We typically find rubber gloves, blue ones usually, lots of rope, and a lot of land litter as well like rubbish from cars.

“We go out a couple of times a week in pairs, but we’ve one lady who goes out and picks up three bags every day.

Theresa Ritchie filling up her bucket at Craigewan Beach, Peterhead.

“On bigger beach cleans we typically get between 20 to 30, but when we organised one at Sandford Bay, we must have had about 50 people as we opened it up to the community.”

Inspiring the younger generation

By posting the results of their beach cleans online to their around 350 followers, the Pick Up Peterhead group has inspired people of all ages to pick up a litter-picker and make a difference for themselves.

Theresa said she was proud to see younger generations carry the torch: “I’ve noticed a lot of younger children have come along as well.

“A lady approached us in the group to say her daughter had picked up a wee bag of litter, and I thought it’d be really nice to say well done, so we gave the girl her very own litter-picker, a hoop and a black bag.

“She was just thrilled, she just zoomed off right round her neighbourhood, so it’s good to encourage young people as well.”

Find out more about our Beach Clean Champions project and read about our other champions below.

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