A SUTHERLAND environmentalist is urging local people to join him in a massive beach clean on Sunday, February 19.
Michael Betoin (51), 14 Park Court, Brora, is organising the clean-up of the coastline from Brora to Littleferry (Golspie) after being inspired by the Sky Ocean Rescue initiative.
The television company launched the campaign on January 24 to highlight the amount of rubbish being poured into the world’s oceans.
It is hoped the initiative will educate and inspire people to change their behaviour and dramatically reduce the amount of plastic waste in particular.
A national newspaper also this week launched a campaign calling for radical action to tackle the "ecological crisis" of the thousands of plastic bottles and cans dumped in Scotland every day.
Mr Betoin, a former Derbyshire police officer who has also worked as a landscape gardener and icon artist, is passionate about the environment.
He has been working for Greenpeace for the past seven years, campaigning and protesting whenever possible.
Closer to home, he has been collecting rubbish from the East Sutherland coastline for two years.
He said: "I’ve worked out that my dog, Tess, and I have walked more than 500 miles clearing up in the past two years. She goes with me on every cleaning trip.
"I have collected hundreds of bags of rubbish, tyres and bikes, of which I recycle about 50 per cent."
He continued: "I went out to Littleferry this week and it’s shocking there. I lifted two car bumpers and three tyres off one tiny stretch of beach and it is littered with plastic bottles.
"Sky TV’s campaign has given me an opportunity to take it to the wider public."
Mr Betoin said he has noticed the problem getting progressively worse and is embarrassed on behalf of visitors at the state of the countryside.
He said: "Frankly, I am embarrassed for the Scottish Government and the Scottish tourist industry that such an outstanding area of natural beauty is completely neglected in such a way.
"I have met many tourists whilst out cleaning and can only imagine what they must think when they have travelled from all corners of the world and have to step over all the rubbish to see the seals and wildlife.
"They are invited to visit here and spend their money and we can’t even be bothered to clean up for them."
He is hoping for a good turn-out on February 19 and has secured sponsorship from Brora Co-op in the form of snacks and drinks for participants.
"I pick up enough of their bags and plastic packaging up off the beach so they should do!" he said.
He is also getting in touch with the Sky News desk in the hope that the event will be given coverage.
Mr Betoin intends splitting the area to be cleaned into seven manageable sections. He will assess the extent of the rubbish on each section and assign people accordingly.
He said: "For the clean-up, everyone is welcome. I can assign sections that are easier or harder, depending on fitness, health etc. Most of the work will be easy to do – just collecting plastic bottles, cans and small rubbish.
He is asking people wear boots or wellies and take their own gloves. Bags are being supplied by the Co-op and wheelbarrows by BEAR Scotland.
"I know this will make a huge difference and preserve what I like to call the Scottish Riviera beaches for locals and visitors alike to enjoy in a beautiful and clean condition."
All the rubbish collected will be brought back to Brora to give people an indication of the scale of the problem.
Mr Betoin said: "The pile will be a lot smaller than it otherwise would be, had I not already been shifting rubbish off the beaches for two years.
"However, I believe it will still be a significant amount.
"In some more inaccessible areas, I could only pile it up until the time came when I could organise a concerted effort to remove it and I believe that time is now – with a few wheelbarrows and strong arms."
Anyone interested in taking part in the "Colossal Coastline Clean-up" should turn up at Brora Co-op car park at 10am on the Sunday. The event is expected to go on until 3pm.