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SAS take plastic trash to the British Plastics Federation


Plastic mermaid tears: photo SAS

Environment News


Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 2 October, 2007 : - - Today, campaigners from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) along with some tearful mermaids will action a British Plastics Federation’s (BPF) seminar in London.  They will be calling on delegates attending a BPF biopolymer and biodegradable plastics seminar to urgently address the problems of plastics littering UK beaches. 

Bringing the beach, complete with plastic tideline, to London, SAS campaigners and mermaids will present the BPF with a 500ml plastic bottle filled with 10,000 plastic pellets, known as ‘mermaid’s tears’. The pellets were collected from just 1 UK beach (Porthtowan, Cornwall) but are representative of a growing tide of mermaid’s tears littering the UK’s coastline. 

SAS are calling on all delegates at the biopolymer seminar to urgently tighten industry practices ensuring plastic, especially these ‘mermaid’s tears’ don’t end up on the beach.  

PHOTOCALL: At 9.30am on Wednesday 3rd October, SAS campaigners and mermaids will be on their imported beach, surrounded by plastic marine litter, greeting delegates as they arrive for the BPF biopolymer and biodegradable plastics seminar held at The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, 1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB. SAS campaigners will present the BPF with a 500ml plastic bottle filled with 10,000 ‘mermaid’s tears’. 

Plastics eclipse every other type of litter on UK beaches by far.  The UK uses 5 million tones of plastic per year, with an estimated 10% of that plastic being discarded at sea. 

Estimates for plastic degradation in the sea is between 450 –1000 years (although plastic never fully breaks down).  SAS campaigners are finding an ever-increasing amount of plastics on beach cleans, with Porthtowan, SAS‘s adopted beach, blighted by a plethora of plastic pellets known as ‘mermaid’s tears’.

These ‘mermaids’ tears’ are melted down and used to produce plastic products.  However, ‘mermaid’s tears’ end up on our beaches because plastic manufacturers industrial practices are not taking this problem seriously.  Once in the marine environment these ‘mermaids tears’ can absorb PCBs and DDEs in concentrations up to a million times greater than the surrounding seawater. 

SAS are calling on the BPF, who represent 80% of the UK plastic industry, to promote the environmentally responsible storage, transportation and usage of these ‘mermaid’s tears’. In particular SAS would like to see a kinder, lower impact alternatives developed that would ultimately reduce its impact on the natural environment.

Andy Cummins, SAS Campaigns Officer says:  “You don’t have to look hard to find items of plastic on every beach in the UK.  We need the British Plastic Federation to tighten up their working practices to ensure plastics don’t escape into the marine environment and help put a smile back on mermaid’s faces”.

More on Marine Trash

- The 10,000 mermaid’s tears handed in to the BPF were collected from Porthtowan.  SAS adopted Porthtowan under the Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch Report.  Undertaking an annual beach clean on the 3rd weekend of September and 3 other beach cleans throughout the year.  Plastics are consistently the most commonly found litter type over the past 12 years.    

- Mermaids tears in seawater can absorb polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDEs) in concentrations up to a million times greater than the surrounding seawater.  This poses a potentially lethal hazard for birds and fish that can mistake mermaid’s tears for fish eggs  (Ananthaswamy 2000).  PCBs accumulation can lead to reproductive disorders and/or death, as they increase the risk of infection due to reduced immunity and alter hormone levels (Ryan et al 1988, Lee et al 2001).

- It is estimated that over 1 million sea birds and over 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die every year from ingestion and entanglement of marine litter. Local authorities, industry and coastal communities spent £14 million a year cleaning up marine litter.  (EA 2004) 

- The British Plastics Federation (BPF) is the leading trade association of the UK Plastics Industry (representing approximately 80% of turnover), a springboard for industry action, existing to exploit common opportunities and resolve shared problems.

- SAS are aware that mermaids’ are just an old wive’s tail, but try telling that to today’s volunteers!!!!!!

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Richard Hardy

Environment - Surfersvillage


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