The Fifth International Marine Debris Conference came and went during March. Being ten years since the last conference there was a wealth of material presented and as we digest the information we will review and present this material in future issues. For now a simple taste of the conference proceedings is presented in the International section.
An important program that we have been working on is the release of plastic resin pellets into the marine environment from transport and manufacturing of plastic products. We are consistently finding these pellets during our clean ups nationwide on beaches, rivers and even stormwater drains. In March we presented our comprehensive report on our findings in Canberra to relevant Government Agencies with a recommendation that the Australian Plastics Industry implement a program called Operation Clean Sweep which aims for zero pellet loss from the plastics industry in the US and New Zealand.
Plastic resin pellets, also known as pre-production plastics or nurdles, are the raw material which is heated and chemically treated to mould plastic goods. Huge volumes of plastic resin pellets are produced and shipped around the world each year. An alarming number of these pellets are constantly being lost into the marine environment both from direct cargo loss at sea and from spillage around factories and transport routes on land. A large proportion of these land spillages eventually find their way into drainage systems and out to sea. At sea, pellets are circulated throughout the world’s oceans and during over 90% of our Australian Marine Debris Initiative clean ups we have found plastic resin pellets. This includes finding pellets in beaches, rivers, storm drains in most capital cities where plastic resin factories are located.
Keep an eye out on our campaign pages to see how this issue progresses, and if you do find plastic resin pellets on your beaches or rivers, please send a photo and information on location to email@example.com
Tangaroa Blue recently visited factories that use plastic resin pellets for manufacturing in each major Australian city. What we found explained why 90% of Australian beaches that we survey have plastic resin pellet pollution on them. More than 75% of the factories we visited had pellets leaching out from around the factories, into nearby properties and stormwater drains. It is clear that any time it rains these pellets are entering rivers and creeks and ultimately into the oceans from factories around the country.
Source reduction plans were implemented following the identification of plastics manufacturers that were releasing plastic resin pellets to the environment in WA. The Department of Environment Regulation issued field notices to two manufacturers in 2013. One facility installed a stormwater filter and the other a barrier around the edge of their premises that was able to catch plastic resin pellets. This shows that the leaching of plastic resin pellets into the environment can be addressed at the source legally, and there are easy solutions that facilities can implement to address this issue.