BEACHES at Arrochar and Garelochhead continue to be among the most polluted in Scotland, with amounts of washed up rubbish and plastic way above the national average.

The extent of the problem is revealed in a new report by the Marine Conservation Society (MSC) following its Great British Beach Clean in September.

It shows that 3,461 items – six times the national average – were collected on an 80 metre stretch of Arrochar beach, east of the metal bridge.

The figure for a 100 metre stretch of Garelochhead beach south of Rhu Spit was 2,200, almost four times the average.

For Scotland as a whole, the average number of items recorded per 100m cleaned and surveyed was 559.

Research has shown the cause of rubbish blighting the shore at both villages is due to their open aspect to the south, meaning debris entering the Clyde is blown on the tide into the lochs where it accumulates in piles mixed with large amounts of seaweed.

This phenomenon, called the Arrochar Sink, is now being monitored by Marine Scotland with the support of community members.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told the Advertiser this week: “Through the work of Marine Scotland we are committed to addressing the problem of marine litter sinks.

“Arrochar has been identified as a marine litter sink case study area, with the support of Arrochar, Tarbet and Ardlui Community Council.

“Monitoring and maintenance there began with a Big Clean in May this year which removed 185 tonnes of mixed debris and worked with 142 volunteers to remove 244 bags of rubbish.

“The next Big Clean will take place in April next year at the request of local residents. Work and learnings from these projects will inform how we tackle marine litter sinks in future.”

The spokesperson said that the Government had extended the SCRAPbook project to the west coast of Scotland ­— using aerial photography to locate areas affected by pollution and deal with them effectively.

The MSC report shows that the worst affected area at Arrochar is east of the metal bridge and, at Garelochhead, south of the Rhu Spit.

Jack Holt from the MSC told the Advertiser: “The items found [at Arrochar and Garelochhead] are well above the national averages in the report.

“We are aware that the Scottish Government are working to find solutions and we feel this makes the data collected by our volunteers ever more important.”

As the Advertiser reported recently, Garelochhead resident Alistair McIntyre described the state of the village foreshore as “an affront to humanity”.

Speaking as a member of the public at a meeting of Garelochhead Community Council, he said: “Litter builds up quickly. I don’t know how the community puts up with it, to be quite honest, living in squalor. I would say it’s like a pigsty but that would be an insult to pigs.”

Arrochar community councillor Mary Haggarty said: “It’s been the same for years, and not really improving at all.

“Beach cleans that have taken place since Marine Scotland got involved have helped a bit during the summer, but the problem is still there.”

The MSC found that on average, for every 100 metres of Scottish coastline cleaned, there were nearly 147 plastic or polystyrene pieces, 16 plastic caps or lids, 36 cotton bud sticks, 27 wet wipes, 16 drinks cans and bottles, six plastic bags and three plastic or polystyrene cups.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, is also launching a £1 million fund supporting innovation for marine plastic capture, collection and recovery.

Local groups with clean-up projects can apply for funding.