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Meet the litter pickers transforming the shore of the Clyde

The group of volunteers want to return their litter-strewn beach back to its natural beauty.

On the shore of the River Clyde, a group of volunteers armed with bin bags and pickers search the sand for bottles, cans and pieces of glass.

The shoreline near Dumbarton Rock was once a stunning place where families would spend their weekends, but as fly tippers and careless littering began, the beauty spot became blighted by rubbish, becoming harmful to marine life in the process.

Friends of Dumbarton Foreshore, a group of around 30 volunteers spanning all ages, are aiming to change the area by regularly meeting up to clean up their local beach and restore it to its natural beauty.

One of the youngest participants is Layla, who happily dons protective gloves in search of interesting finds and to help clear the beach to help marine life.

"It's so important because all the animals are kind of dying and we need to save them," she says.

Litter picking with her grandmother Liz Daly, she cherishes their special time together.

"I like it because it's fun and I like doing it because we spend a lot of time with each other so there's no more glass so my dog can come down on the beach and doesn't get any glass stuck in his paws," she adds.

'Balloons are a particular problem because when they are in the water they look just like baby squid which is a popular food item for many of our beloved marine creatures.'
Zoe Weir, Friends of Dumbarton Foreshore

Layla's grandmother Liz believes that it is important to encourage her young granddaughter to be passionate about the local area.

"It's a natural way for them to learn, learning through experience and they can see for themselves that it looks horrible and it's dangerous to animals," Liz says.

"I think it puts in a natural instinct into them to look after the planet."

The Friends of Dumbarton Foreshore have recently joined forces with Keep Scotland Beautiful to help survey the type of waste that ends up in the Clyde, choosing to specifically look at balloons and how harmful they are to the environment.

"We chose balloons because they are particularly lethal to both marine wildlife and baby farm animals," say Zoe Weir, founder of the group.

"Balloons are a particular problem because when they are in the water they look just like baby squid which is a popular food item for many of our beloved marine creatures - turtles, whales, dolphins, and lots of seabirds.

"One part of soft plastics balloon can kill a sea creature, so they're really lethal."

Liz Daly believes children should learn about the impact of littering.
Liz Daly believes children should learn about the impact of littering. STV

While the Upstream Battle Week of Action aims to discover just what objects are polluting the Clyde, the campaign also aims to encourage people to pick up litter to stop it travelling down the river and into the sea.

Paul Wallace, campaigns manager for Keep Scotland Beautiful, says: "It's a simple fact that a lot of people don't know that 80% of marine litter comes from land.

"People don't realise that a crisp packet or a bottle or a can dropped in the street ultimately ends up in our rivers.

"It's quite windy today, so you can imagine how easily something dropped could end up in the River Clyde.

"So we all need to do more to stop marine litter getting into our rivers and waterways and ultimately ending up in the sea."

The campaign has an added initiative in that it is offering a prize of a picnic set made from recyclable materials to the person who finds the most unusual item whilst out litter picking.

Rubbish accumulates in the River Clyde.
Rubbish accumulates in the River Clyde. STV

According to Zoe, the group have an endless amount of unusual items to choose from.

"We find strange things every week, we have found a four ft snake, deceased sadly, in a plastic bag dumped on the beach," she says.

"We've also found a prosthetic leg, we still have that if the owner would like it back!

"We've found some fox skulls, I found a pair of extra large Calvin Klein underpants last week."

Yet litter picking isn't just about keeping the area beautiful and ensuring the wildlife is able to thrive. For Liz, the group was a lifeline following the death of her husband last year.

"I had reduced my hours at work to help care for him and now had all this time," she says.

"So volunteering was actually ideal because if you do something for somebody else, it takes your mind off of your own troubles and it gives you a sense of wellbeing.

"I've made so many friends that I don't feel lonely. I'm not saying that this group and the other things I volunteer with fill the gap completely, but they've filled a big part of it."

'We find strange things every week, we have found a four ft snake, deceased sadly, in a plastic bag dumped on the beach.'
Zoe Weir, Friends of Dumbarton Foreshore

Having lived in the area all her life, Liz is starting to see the positive benefits that the group's litter picking has had on the environment in the area.

"When I was a child, we came down here but we didn't actually see any sea creatures, but now there's crabs, the amount of birds that are in the water is fantastic, there's the red shanks, there's a whole colony of swans that have come back.

"When I was a little girl, the swans stayed in the River Leven but now they come out into the Clyde so there must be plenty for them to eat."

Thanks to the efforts of the picking team, Zoe adds that the group are now campaigning for the area to become an official nature reserve.

"We're now pushing to have some of the shore here at Havoc declared an official nature reserve. We're really excited about that happening soon," she says.

"If we get that nature reserve status, that will be an amazing achievement. We will have protected lots of Scottish wildlife for the foreseeable future."

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