Green Hive and Plastic@Bay, Durness

We had our second Green Hive team road trip on the 16th of October – all the way up to Durness to meet with Dr. Julien Moreau and Dr. Joan D’Arcy who are the founders of Plastic @ Bay – a community interest company aiming to tackle marine plastic pollution in north west Scotland and beyond – they turn marine pollution into unique, bespoke products at their Plastic Lab in Durness.

Green Hive are launching a plastic recycling enterprise and reached out to Plastic @ Bay for advice and education on how to sustainably manage a workshop focused on recycling plastic household waste.

Andy, Kirsty, Caroline and our volunteer Katrina set off on Wednesday and despite Caroline’s navigation skills we had a very scenic journey, with plenty of snacks!

Breathtaking views on the road to Durness.
Photo credit – Katrina Woods

After a brief wander along the Sango Sands beach, we headed along to the Balnakiel Craft Village – a collection of diverse artists and craftspeople who have re-purposed an old military site into a creative hub on the north coast.

If you ever do the North Coast 500 I highly recommend stopping by and checking out the artists as well as Cocoa Mountain (definitely the best hot chocolate in the Highlands)

The beach at Sango Sands
Photo credit – Katrina Woods

We made our way over to meet with Julien and Joan at their Plastic Lab and after a brief introduction we headed down to Balnakiel Beach, where the Plastic @ Bay team collects the majority of plastic used in the lab.

Plastic @ Bay employ a ranger to collect waste from the beaches in proximity to Durness, but they also have volunteer beach clean days, as well as encouraging the local community to collect litter whenever they are on the beach.

When Julien was describing the volume of waste collected from the beach, I couldn’t help but imagine a beach in crisis, like one of the polluted beaches in the Maldives or the Philippines. When we arrived at the beach however, it looked deceptively pristine; white sand, turquoise water and festoons of kelp along a freshwater burn.

Andy (right) gets the lay of the land from Julien (left) over looking Balnakiel beach

Julien has placed a blue bin specifically for plastic at the gates to Balnakiel beach to encourage people to collect and deposit marine waste – he collects waste from the bin regularly and sorts the waste based on it’s suspected origin.

The blue bin of Balnakiel and Julian’s electric quad

I didn’t expect to find much as the litter wasn’t easily visible – I’m used to spotting drinks bottles and cans and plastic bags but in Durness there is very little “litter” on the beach, instead the waste tends to be brought in on currents outwith the beach area, or even the country’s area!

Once we had a masterclass tutorial on marine waste spotting from Julian, we started rooting through the kelp strands and loose sand beds – then the problem became clear – the larger pieces started to become visible, but the scale of micro-plastic pollution was really shocking.

Sprinkled through the wet sand at the tide line were little flecks of luminous orange, green, purple – almost like glitter. This is accumulating micro-plastics and it is very difficult to clear from the beach.

Julien explained that because the shape of the sand changes often in Balnakiel bay, a lot of the pollution ends up buried over after a couple of tides – only to re-emerge later down the line.

After collecting our waste we headed back to the plastic lab where Joan and Julien helped us to seperate the waste out – we were looking to find recyclable and non-recyclable waste first – and then trying to figure out where it originated from.

Joan conducts research into the origin of the pollution collected in Balnakiel bay, she is like a waste detective and through their partnerships in Durness, Joan and Julien have been able to map the plastic distribution through the local coastal currents which gives them an insight into how the pollution ends up in the bay and what drives particular spikes in pollution.

After a very interesting and informative look into the pollution distribution and possible origins, we were ready to start crafting!

Julien has a wide range of tools and machines to help him in his crafting – injection moulds, pressure ovens, industrial shredders – and explained what each tool was for and how he created his method of production.

Each item that Julien produces is unique and hard wearing – one of the North Coasters has a 1000 year guarantee as a coaster, or a tile – and if you want something different, Julien can remould it for you!

Every item produced has multiple uses and a long shelf life, and the range of colours and patterns that Julien creates with his products is fascinating – he can take plastic pollution and turn it into marbled items which look like precious gemstones.

Some of Plastic @ Bay’s North Coasters – you can see more here:

As this is an exploratory enterprise, there is no “industry standard” way to approach production and Julien was able to provide Andy with lots of useful information to help us once we start recycling plastic in our workshop.

As an end to day one, we cleaned and shredded our HDPE plastic in preparation for creating a long lasting unique item the next day.

The next morning we were raring to jump in and start creating – Julien met us at the lab and took us through his production process – we wanted to create a plastic clock with our HDPE to hang proudly in the workshop at Green Hive workshop.

Whilst we were waiting for our clock to form, Julien took us over his method for creating moulded items, such as tiles and letters – and with much trial and error we were able to produce some beautiful letters for a sign, made from the nylon rope collected the day before!

We all had a shot at crafting letters and the end results are just fantastic – these will be mounted on some live edge wood and used as a sign.

After all that crafting, it was time to check on the clock! Julien uses a combination of pressure and oven heat to create his marbled patterns.

We are over the moon with how the clock and the lettering came out, and after a debrief and lots of hugs, we started back down the road – I personally feel much more informed and confident about pollution, especially marine pollution and also our enterprise project, and that is all thanks to Julien and Joan’s invaluable tuition.

From left to right; Andy with a plastic guide, Dr Joan D’Archy – Plastic @ Bay, Kirsty with the clock, Katrina and Caroline with letters and Dr Julien Moreau – Plastic @ Bay

Let us know what you think of our roadtrip – are you as surprised as we were about the waste problem? Have you been up to the craft village before?

If you have any questions about Plastic @ Bay, or the work they do – check out the website here and if you want to know what Green Hive are up to at the plastics workshop, or to admire our finely crafted pieces in Balmakeith – pop along on a Thursday between 11am – 5pm to have a chat with Andy.

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What can you do with your leftover squashes this Halloween?

It’s my favourite time of year again and I’ve done a lot of research into some quick, easy and creative ways to help you get the most out of your pumpkins and jack o’lanterns.

Did you know an estimated 10 million pumpkins are grown in the UK every year! 95% of which will be hollowed out into lanterns for Halloween and the rest used in recipes – we’ve put together a couple of ideas to help you get the most out of our favourite seasonal squash.

Delicious and healthy recipes

Pumpkin is an incredibly versatile source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it’s both healthy and very tasty. It may help boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, lower your risk of certain cancers and promote heart and skin health. (source;

Perfect Pumpkins!
Image credits Getty Images

When carving up a lantern, you can end up with a lot of left over pulp and seeds, here are a couple of to help you cut down food waste:

Pumpkin seeds and pulp
Image credits Joshua Resnick Shutterstock

Pumpkin seeds – did you know that on average a pumpkin can have anywhere between 100 to 700 seeds! They’re rich in protein, iron, zinc and phosphorus.

These can be eaten raw, roasted in an oven, or used in a multitude of autumnal recipes, such as; granola bars, flapjack, seasonal grain dishes, cheesecakes or even added to a pot of delicious pumpkin soup!

Personally, I like snacking on them throughout the day, or when I’m out on a walk.

The BBC’s Good Food website has a handy guide on roasting seeds, as well as using them as part of a recipe –

A quick and easy snack that’s tasty and full of health benefits
Image credits Getty Images

Pumpkin pulp – the guts that hold the seeds inside the pumpkin can themselves be used for lots of different recipes, blending the guts into a puree allows you to make a wide range of tasty treats including a home made version of the famous Pumpkin Spice Latté!

As a sweet or savoury ingredient, pumpkin puree is a cheap, healthy and fresh alternative to canned pumpkin and the internet is full of exciting ideas on how to mix in fresh pumpkin puree –

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, here’s a link to a recipe to recreate the Wizarding world’s favourite beverage:

Not hungry? You can use your pumpkin guts in lots of other ways – from body scrubs and face masks, to liqueur and dog biscuits!

Post-Halloween Pumpkin Projects

After the 31st of Halloween, you might be tempted to chuck your used lantern out onto the compost heap, before you do that try some of these fun and beneficial projects to really get the most out of your pumpkins!

Pumpkin bird feeder – a simple way to invite wee birdies into your garden.
There are lots of different shapes and sizes of bird feeders that you could craft, so get creative!

The simplest method I found was to carve around the face on your lantern to leave a hole in the front, then pop your pumpkin in a nice quiet part of your garden and fill with seeds, you could even carve holes for some string in the top and then hang your festive feeder up off the ground.

Here’s a guide from Gardener’s World to get you started:

Pumpkin skin is quite tough but also a nice snack for wildlife, so now you have a biodegradable bird feeder!
Image credits: Pumpkin Bird Feeder – Growit Buildit

Pumpkin Planters – your lantern is already hollowed out, so why not pop some compost in and make a cheery and bright autumnal plant pot – the great thing about this is that it will degrade naturally over time so it’s perfect for keeping plants in over the winter for transplanting in spring!

Here’s a pumpkin planter from The Spruce

Pumpkin ornaments and centrepieces – If you have smaller pumpkins left over from your autumn harvest and you don’t want to eat them up, you can instead re- purpose them into floating tea light holders, air fresheners and even succulent centrepieces – there is no limit to what you could create, all just in time for the festive season!

Colourful and cheery pumpkin centrepieces by The Spruce

In conclusion, there are lots and lots of brilliant ways to use up your pumpkins before putting them in the compost.

Once completely worn out you can let them decompose over winter in your mulch pile – or if you don’t have a compost heap nearby, break your pumpkin into small pieces and bury in your garden to increase soil health.

Bring your hollowed out pumpkin along to the Viewfield Community Orchard on the 17th of November and collect some leaf mulch to get a head start on making a planter!

Please let us know what uses or recipes you have for pumpkins – we look forward to trying them all!

Seasons greetings and Happy Halloween!

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Call out for plastic!

Donate your waste plastics to the Green Hive Workshop & support reuse, before recycling.

What Plastics will the Green Hive Workshop accept?

Initially HDPE Plastics.  bigstock-149291216-1-2That is anything with the number ‘2’ inside the recycling logo.
HDPE is one of the most widely used plastics. It comes in a huge variety of colours and it is a perfect material for our workshop projects.  HDPE includes, milk bottles & lids, many plastic pipes, domestic bathroom & kitchen product bottles, and plastic containers from supermarkets.   It would be really helpful if any plastic items you are donating have film lids and labels removed where possible, and have been washed ready for reuse in the workshop.  

Will you accept other plastics in the future?

As much as we would like to find a use for, and accept all unwanted plastic goods in Nairn, we simply don’t have the space or resources at this stage. We have to pay for any items we can’t use to be uplifted for recycling for disposal, so please don’t leave any items laying outside of the workshop.   We have to limit the goods we can accept from the IV12 postcode area, to only the items we can reuse on our creative recycling projects which initially is HDPE.  We hope we can expand what we accept in the future.

How can I donate my waste HDPE Plastic to Green Hive Workshop?

HDPE plastic items can only be accepted during workshop opening hours.  Currently Thursdays 10am-5pm.  As the workshop activities expand with volunteer support, we will expand the drop off days & times. Please keep an eye Green Hive Workshop social media updates for more info.

For more information or to arrange a collection of larger amounts of HDPE from your location please contact

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We’re hiring!

We are looking for a consultant (or team of consultants) to conduct an options appraisal of premises in Nairn best suited to the community hub and waste reduction enterprises which are our long-term plan. As part of this we also need an assessment of the feasibility of our waste reduction enterprises to sustain it.

Our ultimate goal is to establish a permanent hub in the community based around enterprises such as re-purposing waste plastic and growing mushrooms from waste coffee grounds. We are on the point of starting these projects at our premises in Balmakeith but long-term we want to be doing this in somewhere central to Nairn. This community hub will ideally accommodate retail, storage and workshop facilities (for the enterprises), an income generating cafe all providing volunteering, work experience and employment opportunities. We want it to be a welcoming place for local people to drop by, meet up, chat and get support to develop their own ideas and projects and employability opportunities.

We have identified a short-list of five buildings of which probably only one or two are realistic prospects for our plans. We also recognise that a single site large enough to accommodate our vision may be ambitious, so we would ask that the appraisal also consider the business case for the creation of a hub using more than one building.

We anticipate that this opportunity might be likely to appeal to partnerships or consortia. Proposals are invited by 5 pm on Thursday 19th September. 

Further details on the proposal are provided in a Consultants’ Brief and any questions or issues for clarification can be addressed to Simon Noble, Chair, by email or phone on 07766 237312.

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The Big Climate Conversation

Have your say on climate change!

Green Hive are hosting a consultation session on behalf of the Scottish Government to help people in Nairn have their say on how Scotland should repond to climate change.

Sign up to attend on Eventbrite.

Did you know that Scotland has declared a climate emergency?

Would you reduce how much meat you eat?

Would you give up your car to help stop climate change?

Would you switch to renewable energy for your house?

On Thursday 10th October Green Hive will facilitate an engagement event where we are inviting the public to come give us their thoughts on how they feel about what Scotland is doing and what they think Scotland needs to do going forward to combat the global issue of climate change. These events will be held across the length and breadth of Scotland and we hope you will come along and have your say. Everyone is welcome! Bring your pals, bring your Gran, bring your chess club. You don’t need to know anything about climate change to join in the discussion – we are looking to hear opinions from everyone regarding changes that will affect all of us.

The Scottish Government are setting world leading targets to be the first country to reach net-zero emissions by 2045. Reaching our targets must be a shared, national endeavour involving people in their schools, workplaces and communities as well as government. The views you share at these conversations will help the Scottish Government develop a new public engagement strategy that will help Scotland transition to a greener and more sustainable society that we can all be proud of.

Keep an eye out for further information about these events which will be available on twitter @ScotGovClimate in the coming weeks.

Please email with any questions about the event in Nairn, and email with any enquiries about the wider programme of consultation and policy development. Thank you!

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Getting to grips with Invasive Species -Top Five Tips for Balsam Bashing

Green Hive volunteers relax with James (SISI co-ordinator) on the  biggest balsam pile after our balsam bashing experience at the Riverside Fun Day

We’re fast approaching the end of the season for Balsam Bashing – a massive thank you to everyone who has helped out and spent time clearing Himalayan Balsam this year, the Riverside and surrounding area looks completely renewed after all your hard work!

Green Hive volunteers working alongside Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) have managed to clear over 2 acres of balsam from our banks!

We would also like to thank James the SISI co-ordinator for taking time with us to train and demonstrate various methods for invasive species removal. You can have a read through the “species spotlight” on Himalayan Balsam on the Summer 2019 SISI newsletter here

In the next couple of weeks the balsam plants will have ripened their seed pods, making removal very difficult due to the seed pods method of explosive distribution. So, in preparation for next year’s activities – here’s a little about Himalayan Balsam and my top five tips on Balsam bashing!

A wee bit about Himalayan Balsam

Himalyan Balsam is a bonnie but aggressive invasive species to Scotland – if you have taken a walk along the river side in the last few months you would have noticed large thickets alongside pathways, growing up from the banks of the river and hemming out most other plant life.

The Royal Horticultural Society gives us some history and background on the plant itself:

Introduced to the UK in 1839, Himalayan balsam is now a naturalised plant, found especially on riverbanks and in waste places where it has become a problem weed. Himalayan balsam tolerates low light levels and also shades out other vegetation, so gradually impoverishing habitats by killing off other plants. It is sometimes seen in gardens, either uninvited or grown deliberately, but care must be taken to ensure that it does not escape into the wild.

Royal Horticultural Society – Himalayan Balsam

In small amounts this plant can be controlled and doesn’t necessarily pose a danger to ecosystems, however if left unchecked balsam can take over large areas. This can lead to a lack of biodiversity with few plants – such as nettles – able to survive amongst the dense jungle of stems.

The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) have provided this insightful infographic which shows the impact of large scale Himalayan Balsam growth – Himalayan Balsam Infographic

Balsam is easy to spot when out and about, each stem can grow up to 10 feet in height with the flowers clustering at the top of the plant.

Himalayan Balsam in Nairn – typical height of adult plants

Flowering occurs between June and September with pink, purple and sometimes even white flowers which look similar to orchid blossom. Shortly after the flowers have bloomed, seed pods appear and ripen which explode on touch, dispersing up to 7m away from the plant – each plant can produce 800 seeds!

Image 1:
Image 2:
Image 3: Himalayan balsam. Credit: RHS/Advisory.

Himalayan Balsam seeds can stay dormant for up to two years and if carried into a river course, beause of the buoyancy of the seed pods, balsam can establish itself all along the banks of rivers and surrounding areas with ease.

So what is Balsam Bashing?

Green Hive are working in partnership with the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) to help educate and train volunteers in spotting and removing invasive species such as Himalayan balsam, giant hogweed and japanese knotweed.

As well as providing help and advice SISI co-ordinators like James actively look for local volunteers to survey and remove balsam up local river courses, you can find information on their volunteering events here and keep an eye on our Facebook for updates on local SISI events.

James (SISI) walks us through how to safely remove balsam at the Riverside Fun Day

Balsam Bashing is a quick an easy way to remove balsam without the need for specialist equipment or weed killers. You don’t need permission or any special licence to go balsam bashing, and you’ll quite often find me standing by the side of a path, pulling out errant stems on my way home from the Hub.

Andy getting to grips with balsam bashing

The roots of Himalayan balsam are very shallow and the stem of the plant is hollow, making the plant easy to remove from the ground. Personally I find the sound of the stem snapping very satisfying and the entire experience becomes very moreish.

To uproot the plant, grab the stem and try to pull the plant out from the roots – try to get down to the lowest node on the stem to guarantee the plant will not regrow.

Busy balsam pickers!

If you are conscious of bees and buzzing insects, I recommend giving the plant a little shake first to dislodge any fuzzy friends.

When you are finished clearing a section, make sure to pile up your balsam – the best course of disposal is through letting the plant degrade naturally but you will need to ensure the root cannot catch hold in the ground.

A good sized balsam pile

When piling up your balsam be aware of your surroundings, because the plant will start to degrade naturally the area can end up a bit messy for a couple of months – so when you are making your piles, try to do so off to the side of any access paths and roads.

It’s always a good idea to check the area after a couple of weeks for any regrowth or missed areas, it’s always nice to watch nature creep back into your cleared space. I was able to spot stands of knotweed that had previously been hidden away by balsam – that will be the next to go!

2 acres of cleared balsam at the riverside of Broadhill – the plants have already started to break down.

Top Five Tips for Balsam Bashing!

  1. Location, Location, Location

    Once you have located a patch of balsam that you are thinking of clearing, check around the area for any hazards such as; brambles, unstable divots (rabbit burrows), loose riverbank sides, nettles, dog poo and any other human refuse.

  2. Be Prepared!

    I recommend putting on a good pair of boots and a waterproof jacket (maybe even trousers too!) and shielding your hands from nettle stings with a pair of gardening gloves.- you will be comfortable and dry no matter what the weather!

  3. Keep your Riverside beautiful

    As you clear through the balsam, I find it easiest to gather the uprooted plants into a pile – just be careful not to block off access to footpaths and try to ensure that there is no risk your uprooted stems can fall into the river, where they can release their seeds and spread further downstream.

  4. Teamwork is Dreamwork!

    Pulling balsam stem by stem is not too challenging, but sometimes it can be a daunting challenge to clear all by yourself, bring along some friends and make a day of it! We co-ordinate events with SISI and our volunteers, pop down to the Hub and find out what we have going on!

  5. Don’t stop de-leafing…

    Take time to appreciate your impact once you are done bashing for the day, it can be a bit overwhelming when you are in an area that is overgrown with balsam plants, especially if you are out by yourself! You can do a lot of good in little bursts over the course of a couple of months, and it’s really rewarding watching the balsam disappear and the native habitat rejuvenate.

Green Hive and SISI have a program of workshops focusing on other invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed – so if you didn’t get a chance to bash some balsam, you can try your hand at one of our volunteering events coming up!

Keep up to date on upcoming events by signing up to our newsletter here

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Setting up the Green Enterprise Workshop

We have taken occupancy of a unit in the Balmakeith industrial estate and are turning this big empty space in to a creative upcycling centre for the Nairnshire Community.  Specialising in the reforming of plastic, we hope to offer another option to consider, before recycling or landfill.

But we need your help to get this space up and running! We are on the look out for some very specific items to help fit out our upcycling and plastic reforming workshop.  If you think you can help with a donation of any of the items on our workshop ‘Wish List’ please get in touch, and we would be more than happy to give you, or your business a mention on our donors hall of fame. View our wish list and get in touch with Andy if you can help.


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