Spain's coastlines are contaminated with millions of plastic pellets

Communities along the northern coast of Spain are apprehensive about an impending environmental catastrophe due to the deposition of millions of minuscule plastic particles by ships.

It is believed that on December 8, more than one thousand nurdles, or containers of pellets, fell from the Toconao, which is operated by the Danish company Maersk.

Hundreds of volunteers have been deploying to the northwest region of Galicia to clear up the spill. The coast of Asturias, situated to the east, has also been issued a warning.

It is estimated that six containers fell from the Toconao, which is flying the flag of Liberia, approximately 50 miles (80 kilometres) west of Viana do Castelo in northern Portugal. One of these vessels was carrying a minimum of 26,000 kilogrammes of pellets, whereas the others were transporting items including clingfilm, tyres, and tomato sauce.

Since December 13, dozens of coastal communities have witnessed a "white tide" of pellets progressively washing ashore.

Ahead of Vigo, in the Galician port of Noia, are the regions most severely impacted. Fishermen have been vigiling for barrels of pellets that may be adrift in the Atlantic, despite the fact that recent high seas have complicated their efforts.

Public prosecutors have initiated an inquiry, and concerns have been raised that the discharge may rapidly extend eastward along the northern coast, ultimately affecting the Basque country.

Maersk spokesman Rainer Horn issued the following statement: "The shipping company regrets the incident and will conduct an investigation."

Because the minuscule plastic spheres, which are utilised in the production of everyday items like plastic bottles, are less than 5mm in width, cleanup is a monumental task. Water and sediment have been sieved and combed by volunteers in an effort to locate the plastic pellets.

The regional government in Galicia has accused the national government of Spain, which is headed by the Socialists, of failing to activate a marine pollution plan and failing to inform local authorities for two weeks. The nationwide administration maintains that it duly notified coastal authorities.

Local communities find the escalating plastics crisis to be reminiscent of Spain's most severe environmental catastrophe to date, which occurred in 2002 and involved the spillage of over 60,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from the oil tanker Prestige off the coast of Galicia.

The PET plastic granules, according to the relevant authorities, are non-toxic. However, concerns remain that the magnitude of pollution could potentially harm the environment, fauna, and fishing industry in the region.

Ecologists in Action has declared that it will lodge a formal complaint with the Danish shipping company.

Animals may consume the nurdles, thereby making a contribution to plastic pollution throughout the food chain, which includes humans.

Petroleum-evident particles that are not removed from the environment will persist for centuries.

Annually, approximately 300 million tonnes of nurdles are produced. An estimated 230,000 tonnes are lost to the oceans.

An estimated 2.25 billion nurdles were discharged from a ship berthed in Durban, South Africa, in 2017. Ten tonnes of pellets entered the sea off the coast of Germany three years later due to cyclone damage to a container on the MV Trans Carrier. The remnants of the South African disaster travelled 8,000 kilometres to reach Western Australia.