Plastic dinosaurs, 50 pairs of pants and unexploded World War II bombs are among the most unusual finds by beach cleaner extraordinaire Craig Leuchars, but it’s the more common threats to the environment that infuriate him the most.
Craig, from Collieston in Aberdeenshire, has made it his mission to clear the hard-to-reach beaches between his community and Newburgh of harmful marine litter, no matter the effort.
As many of the sandy shores he cares for are located at the bottom of steep cliffs, Craig has to carefully scramble down dangerous inclines, and sweat to lug bags stuffed full of manmade rubbish back up to the top.
And with no vehicular access, once back on top of the cliffs Craig has to make lengthy journeys back to Collieston to dispose of the litter safely.
Scrambling up cliffs with bags of rubbish
He said: “The beaches I tend to clean are quite inaccessible, so it’s not like Balmedie where you can just drive your car there, get out your car and pick stuff up, you have to physically climb down a cliff.
“So the amount of rubbish I can collect is limited to what I can physically haul up a cliff myself.
“I’ll take a couple of bin bags in my pocket, and once I’ve filled a couple of bin bags full of rubbish I’ll take that home with me, and I’ll take it to a point it can be uplifted.”
But making beaches safer for both humans and wildlife isn’t enough for Craig.
The Collieston local has also been caring for his local community by cutting back vegetation on the slim Cliffside paths to the beaches, to create passing places for social distancing.
Danger to seabirds and other wildlife
Craig explained that he collects all manner of rubbish, from litter left behind by families having a day out at the likes of Hackley Bay, to the likes of wellies, rope and rubber gloves that wash in from the offshore and fishing industries of the North Sea.
But over the years of his cleaning campaign, he has noticed some new items winding up in the marine environment.
“I’ve found that over the years the rubbish itself has changed”, he said.
“Things that we’re now seeing an increase in are things like face masks, which two years ago there was no such thing, disposable gloves, and an increase in disposable barbecues.
“One of my pet hates is helium balloons, there’s an absolute proliferation of them, they seem to be everywhere.
“There’s two things, one they kind of resemble a jellyfish so animals can eat them, and they also have long bits of ribbon attached to them, and I have actually found dead seabirds entangled in them, which is quite disappointing.
“Other unusual finds include 50 pairs of men’s unused underpants, I’m only assuming that must be a container on a ship that’s washed overboard.
“I’ve also got a claim I’ve found a dinosaur at the beach, albeit a plastic dinosaur, and some other unusual things I’ve found include World War II mortars, and I’ve had to call in ordnance to have them disposed of.”
Craig said although he gets a lot of personal satisfaction from his work, his ultimate goal is to get the rest of the community involved.
He added: “It’s about trying to inspire other people to do their bit.
“I don’t particularly want to go to the beach on a day out and have to pick up bags of rubbish, if everyone could just be encouraged to take home the rubbish they’ve taken with them, then that would be a start.
“If everybody took home three bits of additional rubbish, then there’d be nothing for me to do, and I could just enjoy a day at the beach with my family, which is what I’d prefer to do, as would the family I think.”
Beach Clean Champions
Craig has been nominated in our Beach Clean Champions project this summer.
Find out more about our project, and read about our other nominees below.