One of the most baffling sights this year so far: thousands of bright pink plastic detergent bottles getting washed up on a Cornwall beach in the United Kingdom. And locals are bracing themselves for more bottles to appear on the shore.
More than 2,000 bottles arrived at Poldhu Cove on the Lizard last Sunday, prompting diligent clearing operations. Volunteers warned that the bottles – expected to increase in numbers in the coming days – pose a potential risk to wildlife.
The pink bottles come from a container going overboard from a ship during a recent storm. Reckitt Benckiser (RB) is currently investigating the connection of its products to the bottles.
Plastic Bottle Invasion
“[T]he Maritime Coastguard Agency sent a helicopter out and discovered that actually there’s whole rafts of them that are likely to be coming our way,” said Justin Whitehouse of the National Trust. The plastic bottles were believed to be full.
Whitehouse added that Lizard Point is among the largest shipping routes in the UK.
The high seas usually cause ships to lose containers, which will sink to the bottom and lie there for months prior to a storm breaking them open and rising to the surface.
In a statement, RB assured that regardless of the bottles’ origin, they are looking into the matter and providing financial, logistical, and technical support for cleanup and disposal operations.
Kids, Dogs Should Keep Away
In the meantime, the local council urged everyone to keep children and dogs at a safe distance from the bottles, some of which were seen foaming.
Cornwall Council and partners that include the Maritime and Coastguard Agency continue to monitor nearby beaches and perform cleanups.
The container was thought to be separated from its vessel near Land’s End back in May.
Various groups expressed concerns over the situation, with plastic pollution in the seas already a pressing matter.
Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Matt Slater cited the bottles’ contents and their potential impact on the marine ecosystem.
“[O]f course, the plastic bottles themselves could persist in the environment for hundreds of years,” he said.
Smaller plastic pieces could be ingested by marine creatures, resulting in illness and even death.
Poldhu Beach Watcher added on Twitter that while the pink bottles can be cleared, the “real environmental disaster” lies on the lines of pulverized plastic remaining at every tide.
Pink bottles can be cleared but the real enviromental disaster is the lines of pulverized plastic left at every tide pic.twitter.com/Nsa45KaWg7
— Poldhu Beach Watcher (@friendsofpoldhu) January 6, 2016
Plastic pollution in the oceans is a global concern. About 80 percent of marine litter originates on land and is largely made up of plastic, which could choke and starve seabirds, sea turtles, whales, and other marine animals to death.
U.S. environmental watchdog group Natural Resources Defense Council said this pollution not only threatens public and marine health, but also entails huge costs for cleanup, causes flood because of trash-blocked drains, and lost tourism revenue from dirty beaches.
A survey on some California communities, for instance, found that their total annual costs for preventing litter from turning into pollution is a staggering $428 million a year.
One of NRDC’s key recommendations is to hold plastic producers and polluters accountable.