Green campaigners demand stop to plastic pellet pollution killing marine life


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These pellets, or “nurdles”, are lentil-sized pieces of plastic that are melted together to create almost all plastic items used day-to-day.

Wildlife conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI) said the pellets spill onto land and at sea in “staggering numbers”, with billions entering the ocean every year while in transit on ships.

Fish starve to death by filling their stomachs with plastic when mistaking the pellets for food.

Tanya Cox, senior technical specialist of marine plastics at FFI, said:

“There is a growing body of evidence documenting the sheer scale of plastic pellet pollution, the harm it causes to marine life and its impacts on ecosystems and human livelihoods.

“But, attempts to prevent pellet loss and minimise its impact have, to-date, been limited, despite the issue being entirely preventable.

“Current pellet loss prevention measures are voluntary in nature and mainly focus on land-based sources of pollution, however there is a critical need for complementary measures that will reduce the risk of pellets being lost during transport at sea as well.”

Cambridge-based FFI has called for a robust, regulatory approach from industry, governments and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to put an end to plastic pellet loss at all stages of the supply chain.

The group wants the IMO, which is responsible for regulating global shipping, to classify plastic pellets as marine pollutants. This would make the cargo subject to much stricter handling rules when shipped at sea.

Other recommendations range from the use of appropriate packaging from the point of production to the point of delivery, to improving disaster response in the event of major spillages.

Catherine Weller, director of global policy at FFI, said: “Most people have never thought about plastic pellets, yet the environmental impact they cause mirrors that of the plastic pollution that has rightly outraged the public. If anything, plastic pellet loss is more outrageous, because it is easily prevented.

“It’s up to all those that handle plastic pellets – including raw material providers, transporters and plastic product manufacturers – to do everything in their power to ensure that plastic pellets are properly stored, transported and handled.

“But we’re also calling for action from policymakers; they have a number of open opportunities to have an immediate, positive impact. If mandatory requirements for all pellet handlers are put in place, it won’t just be those voluntarily choosing best practice who will be accountable for tackling the problem.”


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