A massive pollution phenomenon: Brittany beaches invaded by industrial plastic granules

20/01/23

After Finistère and Sables d'Olonne, it is now Pornic which is the scene of this invasion. The local branch of Surfrider has raised awareness to warn about these disturbing discharges.

An image is enough to set the scene of this worrying phenomenon: a carpet of thousands of small white beads, covering the sand, as far as the eye can see. For several weeks, this phenomenon has been affecting several beaches of the Atlantic coast. After the Finistère in December and Vendée in early January, the Loire Atlantique is now hit. 

« The beads eventually blended with the water and sand but this past weekend, in Pornic, it was visually very impressive, says Jean-François Grandsart, head of the local branch of Surfrider, which launched the protest. This pollution is of an unprecedented scale in the department. » 

Industrial plastic pellets, also known as mermaid tears, are small spheres that are used as raw material to manufacture most plastic objects. Because of their small size (usually less than 5 mm), and due to bad practices from industries, pellets are often "lost" at all stages of the plastic production and distribution chain (production, transportation, recycling...).

Can we clean the beaches from this pollution? 

160,000 tons of industrial plastic pellets end up in the environment every year in Europe. "It could very well be that one or more containers (...) have been lost in the North Atlantic and are dumping their cargo on adjacent beaches, or a release of a container already lost some time ago," explains Cristina Barreau, responsible for studying microplastics at Surfrider. « It could also be a poorly managed industrial accident that led to the dispersion of pellets in the environment. » 

« Fish, marine animals and birds will ingest it, and the rest will not disappear," explains Jean-François Grandsart. It will fragment into smaller and smaller particles and on land, they will reach the water level. They are so small and numerous that everything we can do to collect them will be derisory, even with a sieve. It's too late, the damage is done... » 

Learn more about pellets 


How to stop plastic granule pollution? 

Faced with the extent of this pollution, its recurrence and the irreversible damage it causes, Surfrider calls on the French government to act. On January 1st of this year, measures to prevent this type of pollution came into force. They must now be applied and respected by all industries.

As pollution knows no borders, France must also support the adoption of ambitious European regulations. It is indeed urgent to regulate on a larger scale the practices of the actors of the entire plastic value chain.

It is no longer acceptable for industries to set their own rules without any external control, in the form of the voluntary initiative "Operation Clean Sweep". It is crucial that industries and governments work together to prevent microplastic spills and protect the ocean and beaches for future generations.

The fight against plastic continues in politics. An international treaty is being considered and negotiations will take place in Paris next May.

To follow the dramatic event that affected Pornic last weekend, we are organizing a beach cleanup of pellets on Saturday, January 21.

Participate in Beach cleanup in Pornic of Pornic on January 21 

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