Sick and Tyred of Marine Messplanade

This is a summary of our three-year struggle to try and clean up Marine Esplanade at Leith Sands behind Seafield Sewage Works that’s been an illegal dumping ground for decades.

March 2017

March 2017

We call it Marine Messplanade. Leithers Don’t Litter had three big cleanups there. The first time in September 2017 we collected 4 tons of dumped stuff, including 70 tyres. Second time, in June 2017, 2 tons of rubbish, including about 30-40 tyres and about a dozen the third time, in September 2018.

Once we managed to film a man as he was dumping stuff from his van there. We reported him to the environmental wardens and told them we were ready to testify in court if needed. Months later I called them for an update. They said the man refused to pay the fixed penalty. In this case it’s up to the procurator fiscal to bring the case to the next level. And because they’re usually too busy with bigger crimes, such offences can go unpunished. So, here’s a message to our MSPs: it’s not enough to make a law. You also have to make sure it’s easily enforceable and it protects the environment rather than the culprit.

After months of correspondence, Edinburgh Council finally set up a fence at the bend of Marine Esplanade and a barrier at the Albert Road end to prevent dumping.

These are our posts about the work we've done on Marine Esplanade.






And here’s a pdf with a visual summary.


Since then the illegal dumpers have now moved inside the neglected area (or moved to other areas like Ocean Drive) and fly tip their stuff out of sight.

The dumping ground behind Marine Esplanade - March 2019

The dumping ground behind Marine Esplanade - March 2019

In February 2019 some irresponsible people (or criminals?) were burning tyres on Marine Esplanade. Both dumping and burning tyres are illegal, the toxic fumes are a serious hazard to human health and global warming.

In February, after the incident, we wrote to the authorities, including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the City of Edinburgh Council and Police Scotland to find out what kind of steps they were going to take to stop this place being an industrial scale illegal dumping ground.

The reply from Police Scotland's North East locality was reassuring. They were in the process of arranging a meeting and site visit to Marine Esplanade with Forth Ports, Edinburgh Council Environmental Wardens and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Centre with a view to trying to prevent future incidents. They assured me that in the meantime the police would regularly carry out patrols of Marine Esplanade.

The day after my report someone from SEPA phoned me to let me know they were at the scene and took photos. I asked her to keep us posted on what kind of PREVENTIVE measures they would take to avoid similar incidents. I haven't heard anything about it since.

What we were able to find out so far:
- The public can legally dispose of old tyres in the Household Waste Recycling Centres but businesses (garages) are not allowed to use these centres. They have to hire a licensed waste contractor to take the old tyres to a facility.
- According to a 2006 EU directive old tyres can't be sent to landfill. A change in the law on 1 April 2016 requires you to have a licence if any quantity of third party tyres are to be stored. But it looks like there aren't enough (if any) recycling facilities in Scotland so old tyres are being mostly stockpiled.

This was SEPA’s reply to my original report I filed in February, after the incident.

7 March 2019
”Thank you for reporting this incident. Your enquiry was received through our online web form and was passed to the local team for further investigation. We recently consulted on a sector plan for tyres which outlines how we will tackle the illegal dumping of tyres which create risks from fires and also impacts on legitimate businesses that comply with environmental law. Although SEPA doesn’t hold a register of recycling facilities you may find the information in chapter three, which provides an outlines the tyre sector, useful. The final tyre sector plan will be published shortly on”

This was my reply on the same day:

Hi, thanks for the reply. In the meantime someone sent me the link to your pdf about the tyres, and I read it. You must know, as an agency what Scotland's recycling capacity is. Otherwise how can you design a strategy for tyres disposal? I'd like to have an idea how many tyres are being currently recycled in Scotland if any, how many are stockpiled and how many are being sent overseas to be burned (or recycled) in another country. Many thanks, Zsuzsa

This was SEPA’s reply to my question regarding waste tyres recycling (They replied in a private message on Facebook, on 23 May 2019.)
”There are a number of sites that have the ability to accept waste tyres and recover energy from them. There is one site that has the ability to accept waste tyres, recover energy and use the outputs in their product. There are no sites in Scotland that accept waste tyres and manufacture a new product.

The main aims of the tyre sector plan are to create a place where innovation can help solve Scotland’s tyre problems and support a circular economy where waste tyres are recycled and businesses flourish.

We have commenced work on improving the information we have on the flow of waste tyres into Scotland, around Scotland and out of Scotland.

Approximately 4.2 million waste tyres are produced annually - this figure comes from UK statistics.

Our Tyre sector plan states that there are approximately 2 million tyres fly tipped, illegally dumped or abandoned in Scotland. The number of tyres exported can be seen in a recent Access to Information request (F0190378) which is available at in the disclosure log.”

Shocking figures.

Shocking figures.

Marine Esplanade could be easily turned into a lovely beach front true to its glamorous name if it was clean and well looked after. This would require the authorities and companies who own land at the area (Forth Ports, Scottish Water, SEPA, Edinburgh Council, The Scottish Parliament, Police Scotland) to work together more effectively instead of pointing fingers at each other. Just a few suggestions:

  • Install CCTV to monitor vehicle movement in the area. That could make culprits easily identifiable.

  • Make sure the law is enforced and culprits don’t go unpunished.

  • Reconsider the use of Seafield Recycling Centre for businesses, not just for households.

  • Cover the septic tanks at the sewage works because even if the area was clean the terrible odour would ruin the lovely seaside view.

  • Allow street artists to paint the ugly grey wall on Marine Esplanade. A bright mural with sea creatures would look so much more attractive and people tend to look after a place better when it’s nice and clean.

How to organise a litterpick?

This is my checklist for our community cleanups in Leith. Remote areas are different from urban coastal locations and might require other preparations.


Make sure you have insurance cover, or team up with an organisation that has.  You can tell your volunteers that they participate  at their own risk but if any passers-by trip over one of your bags and sue you, it can be a costly lesson. We have a policy with Markel, designed for volunteer groups. It costs around £100 a year.

SIGN UP (to gather volunteers)

  • Create a mailing list. Add a “SIGN UP” button to your website and Facebook page if you have one. Make sure your collection of email addresses is GDPR compliant. This is what our form looks like.

  • Send out notification long before the event. Include health and safety instructions. (Someone might actually read it.)

  • Set up an event’s page on Facebook, share it on your other social media channels like Twitter or Instagram. Add health and safety instructions. Let people know if your location isn’t suitable for children or elderly people.

  • You can make posters for community places to promote your event. Save paper, don’t do flyers, the last thing you want to do create more litter.

PREPARATION (two weeks to one week prior to the event):

  • Get in touch with your local council. If you live in Leith drop an email to the North East Locality Team and they’ll be happy to help.

  • Tell them about your events and order equipment (litterpickers, gloves, bags, sharps boxes)

  • Agree with them about collection points where to leave the full bags to be collected.

  • Make sure you have the contact details of the task force on the day.

  • Do a risk assessment

  1. Identify hazards, i.e. anything that may cause harm.

  2. Decide who may be harmed, and how.

  3. Assess the risks and take action.

  4. Make a record of the findings.

  5. Review the risk assessment.

Here’s an example of what a risk assessment looks like.

  • Pre-visit the area to see if there’s anything that needs special attention or equipment

  • Check the weather forecast, have an emergency way to communicate with everyone in the event of a bad weather warning. If you do a beach clean, check the tidal times.


  • Be there on time.

  • Start it with health and safety instructions.

  • Distribute equipment.

  • Take a group photo at the beginning when everyone is still there.

  • Tell people where to bring the full bags.

  • If you can, offer refreshments at the end (or in the middle if it’s a longer cleanup). Free coffee, tea and biscuits work wonders in recruiting people and it’s nice to have some social time together after the hard work. (“If you feel there's something missing in your life, it's nearly always a biscuit.”)

  • Record what you collected.

  • Phone the council’s task force to remind them to collect the bags.

  • Post about your event on social media. It encourages others to participate next time.

Beware! Litterpicking is addictive but it comes with loads of benefits. And loads of rubbish too.

If you found this list useful, feel free to share it but please remember to credit us. It helps us recruit new volunteers (And thanks for reading this all the way to the bottom.)


Zsuzsa's Talk at Scotland's International Marine Conference


The Scottish Government’s #Seasthefuture event on 20-21 February 2019 focused on current national and international actions to protect the marine environment.

FM Nicola Sturgeon opened the conference then the keynote speaker Lewis Plugh told us his fascinating story what made him swim in the ice cold waters of the North Pole.

The afternoon of the first day continued with session discussions about marine litter, sound pollution, microplastic and microfibres, among others.

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham opened the second day. My talk was part of the “Community Action” session. I talked about our volunteer work at Leithers Don’t Litter to encourage others that individual actions can make a difference. You can download my talk here.

We’ve heard about shocking stats, eye-opening facts, great innovations but the best part of the conference was meeting lots of like-minded people, including some amazing inspirational children and young people who’re doing a tremendous job to try and save the oceans.

Holding Back The Plastics Tide

The panelists.

The panelists.

On 5 Feb we participated at the Visions for Change: Holding back the plastics tide event hosted by University of Edinburgh Sustainability  department. With inspiring and informative talks from our fellow speakers and an incredibly engaged audience; we had a wonderful evening. 

Here are the panelists’ presentations and more information about their work.

Cal Major: has more information about her paddleboarding expedition around the Isle of Skye on her website and her campaign website and recently wrote a blog for the Department, which you can read here

The Eco Larder: find out more on their website. Find the video they played last night here.

Laura: you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under @lesswastelaura. Her presentation is here. She wrote a wonderful blog for our Department on how she achieves her "less waste" lifestyle in Edinburgh.

Leithers Don't Litter: you can find out more and join their events via their website. Their presentation (with the text of Zsuzsa’s speech) is here.

Marine Conservation Society:  the presentation is here. Find more about their work or sign up to beach cleans on their website.

The next Visions for Change event, this time focusing on palm oil, will be held on 26 February, 18:00 in the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

Visual recycling guide to Leith's communal bins

One of our followers was looking for a more visual recycling guide for Edinburgh’s communal bins. We couldn't find any so we made one. Feel free to use it.

The information about Seafield Household Waste Recycling Centre and bulky items uplift are part of our Sunshine booklet we made for our Flyspotting campaign for Zero Waste Leith. You can download the booklet here.

Here’s a comprehensive list about what you can take to the household waste recycling centres. And you can find information on recycling boxes here. This is Changeworks’ handy guide on how to reduce, reuse, repair and recycle household items. If you're looking for something very specific e.g.crockery recycling visit this website.

Bonfire Amnesty Day


Announcement by Police Scotland, The City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service:

Do you have bulky items in your stairwell or communal areas that you need to get rid of?

If so, you can dispose of it, free of charge, at one of our four bulky waste containers.

The containers will be on site at the following locations on Friday 2 November 2018 - 9am-3pm

  • Cables Wynd House

  • The Quilts (end of West Bowling Green Street)

  • Loganlea Play Park, Loganlea Avenue

  • Niddrie Marischal Crescent

Leith Market Sustainability Day

Yesterday we had a stall at Leith Market’s Sustainability Day to launch our Pukemons campaign.

The Pukemons (from left to right): Boaki, Yukki, Ikki, Sicki and Slimi

The Pukemons (from left to right): Boaki, Yukki, Ikki, Sicki and Slimi

We also handed out Poo Fighters badges to promote responsible dog ownership (i.e. picking up and binning their dog’s poo).

One of our four-legged supporters proudly wearing the Poo Fighters badge.

One of our four-legged supporters proudly wearing the Poo Fighters badge.

We also promoted our Adopt A Street programme and gave away Sunshine booklets from our Flyspotting campaign.


100 things you can do to save the planet

100 things you can do to save the planet

In the last few days you've probably heard the alarming reports in the news about climate change and that we have only 12 years left to fix it.

It can all make us feel overwhelmed and helpless so it's time to re-post this list we wrote two years ago with 100 things you can do to help instead of just posting sad face emojis.