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.