Environmental activists demand an end to plastic pellet pollution that is killing marine life | Nature | New

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These pellets, or “nurdles”, are lentil-sized pieces of plastic that are melted together to create almost any plastic item used in everyday life.

Wildlife conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI) said the pellets were dumping on land and sea in “staggering numbers”, with billions entering the ocean every year as they transited over ships.

Fish starve to death filling their stomachs with plastic when they mistake the pellets for food.

Tanya Cox, Senior Marine Plastics Technical Specialist at FFI, said:

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

“But, attempts to prevent pellet loss and minimize its impact have, to date, been limited, although the problem is entirely preventable.

“Current pellet loss prevention measures are voluntary in nature and focus primarily on land-based pollution sources, but there is a critical need for complementary measures that will also reduce the risk of pellet loss during sea transport.”

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

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

Other recommendations range from using proper packaging from point of production to point of delivery, to improving disaster response in the event of major spills.

Catherine Weller, director of global policy at FFI, said: “Most people have never thought of plastic pellets, but the environmental impact they cause mirrors that of plastic pollution which has rightly outraged the public. On the contrary, the loss of plastic pellets is more outrageous, because it is easily avoided.

“It is up to everyone who handles plastic pellets – including raw material suppliers, transporters and plastic product manufacturers – to do everything in their power to ensure that plastic pellets are properly stored, transported and handled.

“But we are also calling for action from policy makers; they have a number of open opportunities to make an immediate positive impact. If mandatory requirements for all pellet handlers are put in place, it will not only be those who voluntarily choose best practices who will be responsible for fixing the problem.

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