Plastic pellet pollution: Surfrider Foundation Europe calls on Belgium to act

23/09/21

Belgium currently faces chronic plastic pollution of its rivers and its coastline. One of the sources of this environmental disaster is well known: industrial plastic pellets have invaded Ecaussinnes, in the Walloon Region, as well as Antwerp, in Flanders. In the context of its European campaign Chasing Pellets, Surfrider Foundation Europe has therefore called on the Belgian Environment minister, Ms. Zakia Khattabi, to act on this serious issue. Here are the latest developments of Surfrider Foundation Europe’s mobilization against plastic pellet pollution in Belgium.


From rivers to the North Sea: the spill of plastic pellets is a source of pollution both for humans and biodiversity

Industrial plastic pellets pose multiple threats to coastal and marine environments. Usually found in the form of small plastic spheres or powder, they are used as raw material for most of the plastic items in our everyday life. Easily spilled into nature due to their small size, they are spread into rivers and then the Ocean, thus representing a recurring and insidious pollution - one that could be avoided at its source! They present a real danger for ecosystems as they may be ingested by the local fauna, or can become vectors of harmful contaminants, that might eventually be consumed by humans. 

A Belgian-wide, structural pollution

In the Walloon Region, the Sennette River flows through the city of Ecaussinnes and close to an industrial zone which is responsible for recurring plastic pellet spills into the river, especially observed after heavy rainfalls. Those spills are associated with companies from the industrial zone, as they produce, handle or manipulate the pellets.

Further research on Ecaussinnes has shown that local public authorities have been reporting this pollution for more than 10 years. However, no changes in the infrastructure nor protocols have been made, in order to avoid this persisting pollution. Despite numerous requests from the city, the companies of Ecaussinnes’ industrial zone did not review their practices and have even denied being the source of the problem.

Ranked first European seaport and biggest petrochemical zone in Europe, the city of Antwerp has experienced a similar situation to Ecaussinnes. Indeed, plastic pellets have regularly been found during volunteer clean-ups around the harbor and the adjacent natural protected area, thus threatening the coastline and the North Sea. Ecaussinnes or Antwerp are not singular cases, since there are multiple similar examples at the European level. They put into light the flaws in the management, storage and transport of the plastic pellets.

 The actions undertaken by Surfrider Foundation Europe 

Committed against plastic pellet pollution through its European campaign Chasing Pellets, Surfrider Foundation Europe has called for the adoption of binding measures at the European scale, in order to set obligations on the entire value chain of plastic pellets.

At the Belgian level, Surfrider Foundation Europe recently took part in the public inquiry conducted by the city of Ecaussinnes in order to express its support for a better framework of the licenses granted to the industries. In addition, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Surfrider Belgian Coast, alongside other organisations, have sent an official letter to the Belgian Environment minister, Ms. Zakia Khattabi, on September 16th. The letter aims to bring the issue of plastic pellets up and most importantly to call on her support for a better institutional response of the European Union to address this critical environmental issue.  


Discover Surfrider Foundation Europe's expedition against plastic pellets

Click here to learn more on plastic pollution

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