Aberdeenshire Councillor and waste campaigner, Paul Johnston has reacted positively to the report by Earthwatch’s researchers working with Plastic Oceans UK, an NGO commissioning research.

“The list contains materials where we largely have alternatives so its perfectly possible to get change via regulation and education as well as civic action.” said the Democratic Independent Councillor. “so the message is ‘YES WE CAN’ However, there are materials that require a major effort. No 3 on the list of pollutants is smoking litter along with its packaging. This needs a significant effort by legislators and/or enforcement work. We already have litter fines – but Councils would need the support of government if they were simply to try and tackle this by simple enforcement alone.”

On the report itself, Councillor Johnston said:

“The report highlighted many actions individuals can do and ones which can be done by local people or Councils. Its positive reading and i would urge examination of the report in detail by everyone who wants to see a sustainable future.”

“I do however, accept that there is a role for politicians, legislators and public servants in progressing all of this. This report is a great ‘heads up’ for everyone involved.”

The Plastic Rivers report, published today (8 April) in association with Plastic Oceans UK, has analysed data from nine studies of freshwater sources across the UK and Europe, revealing the top ten plastic pollutants in the UK’s rivers and lakes.

Here is the list and Cllr Johnston’s reactions in parenthesis.

The top 10 plastic pollutants in rivers and lakes:

  1. Plastic bottles and lids
  • These can be very largely dealt with by a DRS in Scotland (Deposit Return Scheme)

Food wrappers (crisp packets and sweet wrappers)

  • Extended PRS (Producer Responsibility Scheme)cwill create systems for collection such as Terracycle, as well as compostable alternatives.

Cigarette butts

  • This needs debated. Is enforcement of existing laws being done?

Sanitary items (nappies, sanitary towels, tampons and wet wipes)

  • The subject of a debate in the EU about separate collections?

Plastic or polystyrene takeaway containers

  • Full environment friendly alternatives exist.

Cotton bud sticks

  • Full environment friendly alternatives exist.

Plastic or polystyrene cups

  • Full environment friendly alternatives exist.

Smoking-related packaging

  • As per 3 above

Plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery

  • Full environment friendly alternatives exist.

Plastic bags

  • Full environment friendly alternatives exist.

To access the full report, click here.


Councillor Paul Johnston is leader of the Democratic Independent and green Group on Aberdeenshire Council and campaigners on zero waste and circular economy issues.

About Paul

Works in the community View all posts by Paul

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