Cash rewards given to Colonsay schoolchildren for clearing litter

A boat owned by Kevin Byrne unloads bags of plastic rubbish like old fishing twine. Picture: SWNS
A boat owned by Kevin Byrne unloads bags of plastic rubbish like old fishing twine. Picture: SWNS
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A bookshop owner on a remote Scottish island is encouraging local children to earn pocket money looking after the environment by picking up litter from fishing boats.

Kevin Byrne, from Colonsay, is offering £1 to any child who collects 100 pieces of plastic fishing twine which he says is blighting the idyllic island’s coastline.

The retired former hotelier said around 90 per cent of the island’s coastal rubbish comes from fishing boats.

Mr Byrne, 71, set up the initiative recently to encourage the island’s young people to get involved in keeping the beaches tidy.

He said: “We’re trying to engage school children more and we’re trying various plans this summer – obviously with their parent’s permission.

“The community supports it intensely and have funded it for the next five years from our community fund. We were inspired by activist Greta Thunberg and advertised for local eco-warriors and offered £1 for 100 pieces of plastic string.

“It’s gone well, the children have been absolutely thrilled to get their £1 and they’re parents have been pleased.”

The community turned its attention towards the flotsam and jetsam problem seven years ago, having picked up around 1,250 bags of rubbish in the first year.

Despite the swathes of rubbish, the island received a helping hand from thoughtful locals and kind visitors.

Mr Byrne said: “Seven years ago the council on Colonsay had a meeting about clearing our whole 50 mile coastline of litter – it had never been done before.

“The first year was ferociously difficult but we had help from volunteers, particularly summer visitors. We had two dozen out picking at a time. We had to clear inland as well, because of stuff blowing across land from the beach.

“We’re thorough and literally try to pick up every bit of string.

“Around 1,250 bags were filled in the first year.”

Having kept on top of the problem since the community rallied against the rubbish, Mr Byrne is expecting nearly two- thirds less litter this year.

He said: “Any beach facing south-west are the worst ones.

“About 90 per cent of the rubbish unfortunately comes from fishing boats but on a brighter note we don’t get many plastic bottles anymore.

“We used to get lots of toothbrushes and coffee jars as well. The amount of rubbish is reducing dramatically every year, but the stuff from fishing fleets is getting bigger.”