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Environment / Environmental projects honoured at awards

The winners of the 2017 Shetland Environmental Awards. Photo: Austin Taylor

A TOTAL of 13 projects ranging from peatland restoration to a seed library were recognised at this year’s Shetland Environmental Awards.

Among the winners at the event on Wednesday was Augean North Sea Services (Shetland), which recycles waste collected from Da Voar Redd Up, and Baltasound Junior High School for its Hermaness peatland restoration project.

Ruth Mackenzie, chairwoman of organisers Shetland Amenity Trust, said the awards have “always been truly inclusive, attracting nominations for a wide variety of projects from all sectors of the community and this year is no exception”.

The awards were judged by the Shetland Environment Group and they were sponsored by a host of organisations including Scottish National Heritage, Shetland Islands Council and VisitScotland, whose chief executive Malcolm Roughead presented the awards.

He said that “Shetland’s windswept landscape, unique scenery, and wildlife is part of what attracts thousands of visitors each year, but with that comes a responsibility to look after our environment.”

The local Augean team has supported Da Voar Redd Up over the last two years and the small crew of three has diverted over 36 tonnes of recyclable waste from landfill.

It also helps the amenity trust outside of the Redd Up with recycling any ghost nets, which may have washed ashore, as well as plastics.

The Baltasound school scheme saw pupils lead a peatland restoration project to repair a damaged bog at the old path which went through the middle of the Hermaness National Nature Reserve.

With help from amenity trust staff, the schoolkids’ project is set to enable bog vegetation to start absorbing carbon dioxide again. To date, the areas along and around the first 500m of the path have been restored.

Scottish Water was also acknlowedged for its peat restoration work at its Sandy Loch treatment works on the outskirts of Lerwick.

A team from Scottish Water Sustainable Land Management worked with the landowners, the amenity trust and Scottish Natural Heritage to counter erosion of peat at the site, with work completed in under four weeks earlier this year.

The amenity trust itself was also given an award for its community cash for cans recycling scheme, which initially started in 1989 as a pilot in schools.

It pays groups 50p per kilogram of aluminium cans collected, often raising vital funds for community groups and charities.

Another long-standing project honoured at the awards was the Shetland Community Bike Project in Lerwick, which launched in 1999 as a non-profit charity which promotes recycling and waste minimisation.

It accepts donations of bicycles in any condition before repairing them, and it takes in people who have barriers to employment. Since 2010 it has recycled over 143 tonnes of material and repaired nearly 2,500 bikes.

Chris Harris from Skerries was also given an award for his help in tidying up the remote island by moving on things like unused vehicles, redundant containers and fishing equipment.

He was also praised for turning his home into an asset for the community by creating a cinema and gym using second hand items.

Artist Julia Barton was recognised for the Shetland phase of her Littoral Sci:Art project, which saw her hold workshops to 15 schools last year about litter on beaches.

They saw some primary pupils collect litter and return it to its manufacturers, while secondary children helped to map areas of beaches to record the prevalence of microplastics.

The bespoke fendering system at Lerwick Port Authority’s new Mair’s Pier in Lerwick was also honoured for its use of 86 tonnes of recycled tyres.

Instead of using a typical fender system, which usually originates from China, the in-house solution used truck and larger machinery tyres.

Nesting Primary School won an award for its ‘Gutter Keetchin’, which saw an unused part of its grounds turned into a creative play area using recycled materials from the community.

It allows up to 20 children to play with pots, pans, utensils and cups, with other schools set to follow suit.

The Shetland Seed Library, which was established in 2015 by Aurore Whitworth, won an award for promoting and encouraging seed saving.

It invites people to save seeds for crops and vegetables and has a yearly seed swap. There is also a seed borrowing box at the Peerie Shop cafe in Lerwick.

A garden project and tree plantation at St John’s Kirk in Baltasound, Unst was also recognised.

Volunteers from the community helped to redevelop a garden area at the kirk, as well as plant 200 trees in land around the church.

Also honoured from the northerly island was Unst Partnership’s community skip scheme, which allows locals to make use of a skip six times a year.

The scheme reduces fly-tipping on land or at sea and through an annual subscription or one-off fees, it no longer needs any subsidy funding – apart from a small donation from the Unst Community Council.

The new Whalsay School eco-group was also praised for its range of initiatives, which include creating a recycling information point in the school and rejuvenating the school grounds.

Mackenzie added: “The 13 winners include individuals passionate about the environment, companies increasing their environmental credentials and schools and community groups taking the lead in recycling.

“The Shetland Amenity Trust has been involved in many of these projects, showing just how committed we are to protecting and enhancing Shetland’s environment as well as supporting our local community to achieve their environmental objectives.”