Cold Water Islands Project

Surfers Against Sewage is launching a pilot project aiming to tackle marine plastic pollution on Cold Water islands by implementing innovative, community-based solutions.

The initiative is part of the ‘Cold Water Islands Project’, led by the national marine conservation and campaigning charity Surfers Against Sewage, who has joined forces with Parley for the Oceans to develop a strategy that volunteer-led island communities will work to implement throughout 2019.

The plastic pollution crisis can have a disproportionate negative impact on island ecosystems, wildlife and communities from the tropics to the tundra. This new project, targeting small cold water islands around the UK, will explore plastic pollution pathways and promote community-based solutions under the Parley AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) to demonstrate how these microcosms can provide a template for global action towards a plastic-free future.

The programme connects island communities across a broad geographic spread, from the Northern Isles to the Channel Islands, each of which faces unique challenges in respect to addressing plastic pollution pathways. The list of selected islands includes:

  • Orkney, Northern Isles, Scotland
  • Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
  • Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
  • Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
  • Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
  • Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli), Wales
  • Hayling Islands, England
  • Alderney, Channel Islands
  • Herm, Channel Islands

The project aims to demonstrate how these small island microcosms can provide a template for action for transitioning to a plastic-free future on a global-scale.

Ben Hewitt, Director of Campaigns and Projects at Surfers Against Sewage says:

“Our island communities are on the front line battling the scourge of plastic pollution and we want to support the groups and individuals working tirelessly to tackle avoidable single-use plastic.”


Cyrill Gutsch, Founder of Parley for the Oceans says:

“Islanders know that plastic has to go. It doesn’t belong on beaches and it has no place in a circular economy. Together with SAS, we’ll continue to grow our Parley AIR Strategy and SAS’s Plastic Free Communities to these new islands by empowering and connecting communities and their leaders, whose local actions can shape both a nationwide and global model for change”

The strategy involves a community-based approach, with local businesses, stakeholders and individuals all encouraged to participate in the project’s positive action through steering groups, events and beach cleans.

The programme incorporates the learnings of both SAS’s community initiatives and Parley’s AIR strategy (Avoid. Intercept. Redesign.) to empower and mobilise community action against plastic. Each community leader will be supported with a toolkit resource, that will be crafted to guide the island’s strategy and detail the tactics for achieving the following three objective points:

  •        AVOID: The Island achieves Plastic Free Community Status, including the formation of a community steering group and engaged grassroots network for change to manage actions against plastic, engaging the local authority/council, businesses and schools.
  •        INTERCEPT: Coordination of regular beach clean community events and collection of data regarding the type and source of the plastic pollution on their island.
  •        REDESIGN: Reduce the islands single-use plastic footprint by engaging and collaborating with the island’s creative community and promoting individual actions.

Why we're protecting islands

“Growing up on Hayling Island has given me a life-long love and respect for nature and the ocean. It’s really important to me that we try and preserve that environment for future generations. Being part of the Cold Water Islands project will allow me to give something back to my hometown and help grow the engagement within the community so that it’s sustainable – I can’t wait to see what happens over the coming year!”

— Lara Hayward, Hayling Island Community Leader

“I am so stoked to be part of this amazing project! I am looking forward to showcasing the beautiful island of Herm and meeting others as enthusiastic about protecting their environment along the way. Our little gem of an island is a mile and half by a mile and a half and tackling the plastic pollution and environmental issues are extremely important to myself and our community! “

— Nic Nolan, Herm Island Community Leader

“When I first came to Tiree 35 years ago there was no plastic. This plastic tide is a blight to such a beautiful wild rural environment and needs to be urgently addressed, which is why I’ve taken on this project with my community.”

— Catriona Spink, Tiree Community Leader

“The Isle of Harris has a unique and beautiful landscape, with flora and fauna seen virtually nowhere else on the British Isles. Therefore, Harris must be protected from the plight of plastic pollution. With a tightknit community dedicated to sustaining the island, there is potential to limit plastic pollution and practice life without single use plastics.”

— Carolyn Cluness, Harris Community Leader

Alderney is a beautiful island but we could and should be doing so much more to end our part in plastic pollution. Alderney is home to many seabirds, including the Gannets - 100% of which have nests comprised of plastic lines and net. The Redesign stage of Parley's AIR system is greatly needed here

— Claire Thorpe, Alderney Community Leader

“The famous currents of Ynys Enlli now bring tonnes of marine plastic to the island - The Cold Water Islands Project is a fantastic opportunity for all those who love the island and care about its nationally important wildlife, to join the campaign and reduce plastic consumption on the island, and help intercept and remove the damaging marine plastic.”

— Sophie Scharer, Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli) Community Leader

“Rathlin islanders are very proud of our island home and proud to be its front-line guardians. This is a great opportunity to strengthen our resolve to work for cleaner, plastic-free shorelines and oceans. If a small island can achieve a positive impact, with limited resources, then anyone can do it.”

— Michael Cecil, Rathlin Island Community Leader.

"It would be amazing to restore our coastline to the rugged beauty that Skye is known and loved for. However, Skye is so much more than a tourist destination. Beyond romanticising the landscape it would also be amazing to work alongside the fishermen and mariners to clean up their working environment and develop realistic sustainable practice so island life can continue for generations to come."

— Gill Houlsby, Skye Community Leader

"Orkney is an inspiring collection of islands, providing clean air and diverse natural habitats. The islands are home to 15% of the world's seal population, providing important breeding grounds for several animals.For the protection of all Orkney's species, it is vitally important we remove pollutants to ensure a safe and sustainable home."

— Carol Campbell, Orkney Community Leader