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Accepted Paper:

“Cleaning up their mess”: taking responsibility for coastal plastic pollution in the Western Isles  
Cormac Cleary (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the triple aspect of “responsibility” in relation to an island's plastic pollution problem. I explore debates about who is responsible for removal of the plastic, sentiments about who is blamed for the problem and questions about responsible or irresponsible behaviour .

Paper long abstract:

This paper responds to Pathak and Nichter’s call for studies of how the global phenomenon of plastic pollution is experienced at a local level, focusing on the Western Isles, an archipelago of the west coast of Scotland. Renowned for the “unspoiled” natural beauty of their coastline, the Hebrides suffer increasingly from marine plastic pollution. During the winter of 2019-2020, a higher than usual number of storms (likely due to anthropogenic climate change) have beaten against the eroding shoreline of the islands, and washed up large amounts of plastic onto their pristine beaches. This coincides with an ongoing problem of fly-tipping on the islands’ coastlines. As such some of the waste that chokes coastal habitats in the Western Isles is local, and some of it is decidedly not (for instance a Japanese bleach bottle was recently washed up in South Uist). In the wake of this, communities are mobilising in different ways to organise beach cleans or campaign to reduce to plastic use at the household level. Drawing from ongoing ethnographic fieldwork in South Uist, this paper explores the triple aspect of “responsibility” in relation to the islands’ plastic pollution problem. In the first sense, I explore debates about who is responsible for removal of the plastic from the beaches. In the second, I examine sentiments about who is responsible for the problem in the sense of attaching blame. Finally, questions about what is deemed responsible or irresponsible behaviour in relation to waste management will be addressed.

Panel Evid03c
Intractable plastic: responsibilities in ‘plasticized’ worlds III
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -