Washing machine among junk piled up on island coast

Some of the litter Neil Fraser spotted on his 1,000-mile hike around the Shetland coastline. Picture: Cascade
Some of the litter Neil Fraser spotted on his 1,000-mile hike around the Shetland coastline. Picture: Cascade
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A hiker has photographed piles of rubbish as he walked the otherwise unspoilt 1,000-mile Shetland coastline.

Neil Fraser, 57, was shocked to see waste including a washing machine on a cliff side, a computer monitor and a huge chunk of polystyrene.

He also found rusting, abandoned vehicles, plastic mussel pegs and fishing nets sprouting from the stretches of sandy beaches.

Mr Fraser, who lives in Lerwick on Shetland, completed the mammoth challenge in October walking many areas that can only be reached by bridge or ferry. He took photos roughly every 100 yards to build an in-depth account of polluted beaches and cliffs.

The video log was compiled as Shetland communities and those living further afield grapple with the plastic problem. Mr Fraser said: “It’s such a beautiful place and then you see the sort of the mess that’s about it and you probably become more aware, especially with the David Attenborough film [Blue Planet]. I think we’re all more aware.

“There are some gorgeous spots that are destroyed.”

It took Mr Fraser about two years to walk the coastline. Large chunks of polystyrene creating the effect of “snow” were found on his travels.

“I think that’s a buoyancy aid that’s burst and that’s what’s left,” he added.

“All the islands in the past would have dumped the stuff over the banks, so we’ve come from that culture.

“You see so little of people walking outside the normal areas ... you rarely meet anybody, so I think in a lot of cases people just aren’t aware of the damage that’s being caused.

“We all use plastic. All of us are guilty of probably causing it because it’s convenient.”

Mr Fraser’s photos also highlight remnants from fish farms, mussel farms and agricultural industries. He said when it came to the aquaculture industry companies should also look to organise clear-ups close to their farms, questioning whether wood could be used as an alternative material for items such as mussel pegs.

Photos taken only several days ago in Burra show extensive marine litter. Mr Fraser even found a fuel can with petrol inside at Stromness Voe near Whiteness. Other pictures show a computer monitor next to a dead animal on the beach.

Origins of the rubbish may not just be Shetland, but from the European continent. “Some of it is ours, but everybody is responsible,” he said.