Authorities in Asturias and Galicia, Spain, have declared alert level two in their environmental emergency plans due to large numbers of plastic beads washing up on beaches. This makes it possible to ask the central government for help in cleaning up the beaches, as the newspaper "La Voz de Galicia" reported on Wednesday.
The white balls, so-called pellets, which are almost the size of a lens, are used to make plastic parts. They found their way into the sea when several containers carrying, among other things, around 25 tons of the beads fell overboard in a storm in December. The pellets were packed in plastic bags that tore open in the sea. The current washed them onto the beaches of northern Spain.
The shipping company Maersk confirmed that the chartered ship "Toconao" lost six Maersk containers off the Galician coast on December 8th on the way to Rotterdam. The incident was immediately reported to the Spanish and Portuguese coast guards, a Maersk spokesman said at the request of the German Press Agency. The ship owners have already commissioned specialist companies to help remove the pellets. Investigations into the cause of the container loss were ongoing.
Numerous volunteers have been trying for days to clean the beaches by hand, laboriously using brooms, rakes, shovels and household sieves. Environmentalists warned of the danger that the plastic could enter the food chain if it breaks down into microplastics over time and is ingested by plants and animals.