IT is one of Scotland's most beautiful tourist villages, nestled at the head of Loch Long and overlooked by majestic hills.

The boulder strewn landscape of the loch bed provides a habitat for a huge variety of marine life including conger eels, anemones, crabs, starfish and urchins. The sea loch is a haven for anglers being home to cod, whiting, plaice, mackerel, skate, wrasse and pollack.

The group of mountains called the Arrochar Alps, and the distinctive rocky summit of the Cobbler are a godsend for adventurous ramblers and climbers.

But the head of Loch Long which kisses this picture postcard-worthy village in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park continues to be blighted by marine litter, and according to Marine Conservation Society data, is one of the most polluted beaches in Scotland with washed up plastic and rubbish six times the national average.

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On Sunday locals have organised a new clean up, a month after a low key group had already gathered up half a ton of garbage.


That's despite campaigns launched over the last two years to try and stop the incoming plastic tide, and have highlighted the Arrochar problem.

Research has shown the cause of rubbish blighting the area is down to the open aspect to the south, meaning debris entering the Clyde is blown on the tide into the lochs where it accumulates in piles mixed with large amounts of seaweed.

The phenomenon, known as the Arrochar Sink, is being monitored by Marine Scotland with the support of community members.

But local bed and breakfast owner Cristina Sanchez-Navarro, who is organising a Spring clean up on Sunday says that despite attempts to stem the tide of plastics in our water, the problem is actually getting worse.

She said: "This is a huge tourist attraction, but we have seen a lot of negativity because of the filth people have to walk to to get to the Arrochar Alps. "To me it was a no brainer that the village needed help. That's why I called in the likes of the Marine Conservation Society and people started noticing.


"So the improvement has been is in getting people from outside to give us help to get it clean.

"On Sunday we will have representatives of Marine Conservation Society, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Forestry Commission, Surfers Against Sewage, a diving group that uses the loch coming out to help. "But the plastics and the marine litter coming up here is getting far worse than it has ever been. It is actually growing."

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She said at the end of last year, a porpoise was found dead wrapped in a black plastic bag. "I was devastated.


"It is not enough just to do this clean. It is just a drop in the bucket, actually."

The Marine Conservation Society has been collecting data through surveys to get to the bottom of why the problem is growing.

Ms Sanchez-Navarro says: "What needs to happen is to educate people. I am not political, I just do what I can. But from the surveys, they will go to government and we hope they will lobby for a solution."

In January, last year, the Scottish Government announced the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton buds was to be banned, following concerns about the number being washed up on beaches after being flushed down toilets.


In the first year after Scotland introduced a 5p charge on plastic bags in 2014, the number handed out in stores was slashed by 80 per cent – the equivalent of 650m fewer carrier bags in circulation.

"The 5p for plastic bags was brought in because of campaigns, and governments are talking about banning plastic cotton buds, stirrers and straws which is great," said Ms Sanchez-Navarro.

"So we need more of this. Lobbying government for change is the way forward in Scotland and the UK."

During the Great British Beach Clean in September some 3,461 items – six times the national average – were collected on an 80 metre stretch of Arrochar beach, east of the metal bridge.

In May last year, 882 pieces of litter were found across a 100 metre stretch, with 74.5% being plastic or polystyrene, and 8.5% was sanitary waste.

A study in March found that even Loch Lomond, one of the country's most protected lochs was found to contain microplastics that can harm marine life.

The study, believed to be the first of its kind, looked at ten sites - including waterways in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, lakes in the Lake District, a wetland and Welsh reservoir - and found microplastics in all of them.

Research in 2018 found that some of Scotland's coastal waters have become microplastic hotspots, having become saturated with tiny plastic particles that threaten seabirds and other sealife.

In April, a group including Eastwood Divers, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society members and some Loch Lomond rangers conducted their own clean up and collected half a ton of rubbish.

Grant Pollock, posted photographs of the amount of debris collected on Facebook and said: " I don't think I was the only one that felt happy to be doing something worthwhile and yet sad at what we as a species are doing to just this tiny part of our planet. Plastic in all shapes and sizes, not even mentioning the cotton buds that seemed limitless."

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Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society said: "We have had many dedicated volunteers and partner organisations tackling the vast amount of marine litter washing up at Arrochar. Some data has been collected which is essential to understand more about why there is so much litter but we know that the surveys have been challenging at Arrochar due to the amount of litter and seaweed that gets washed up on the beach.

"By collecting data through the MCS Beachwatch methodology a baseline will be able to be created so when policies and innovative solutions are tested the success of these can be measured. Communities like Arrochar have been fighting this rising plastic tide for a long time and we need to all work together to stop the plastic tide for good."

Researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium found two years ago that seafood eaters are absorbing plastic into their bloodstream with unknown effects on human health.

Scientists say that 99 per cent of the microplastics pass through the human body - but the rest are taken up by body tissues.

It is believed Europeans currently consume up to 11,000 pieces of plastic in their food each year. According to unpublished studies, fewer than 60 of these are likely to be absorbed - but they will accumulate in the body over time.

But there have been warnings that the amount of plastic absorbed from our food will increase as plastic pollution in the ocean gets worse.

In 2017, it emerged that 88 shoreline searches across Scotland found that over two out of three were littered with the lentil-sized plastic pellets known as 'nurdles'.

The Firth of Forth saw the highest concentration of the lentil-sized fragments, which measure less than a millimetre across, and are used as a raw material in the manufacturing industry to make new plastic products.

Beach cleans by the Marine Conservation Society have found that the average number of plastic cotton buds found per 100 metres in Scotland has soared from around nine in 2011 and 2012 events to 31 in the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

The typical number found in the last two years was more than double that found in the previous two years of beach cleans and was higher than the UK average.

The Scottish Government was approached for comment.