What we know about “mermaid tears,” those plastic balls that wash up on our beaches
In recent weeks, thousands and thousands of “mermaid’s tears”, industrial plastic pellets, have been found on the beaches of Finistère, Vendée and then Loire-Atlantique. The NGO Surfrider is thus calling on citizens to mobilize on the affected beaches this weekend. Several complaints have already been filed against X. We keep track of this pollution “unprecedented” in size depending on the organization.
“Unprecedented” pollution on the Atlantic coast
Three episodes of contamination observed since the beginning of December. The bay of Audierne in Finistere was first affected by the massive arrival of these plastic balls. The same two weeks ago in the Vendée, specifically in Les Sables-d’Olonne. Pollution then hit the Loire-Atlantique coast at the end of last week in La Bernerie-en-Retz, Pornic or even Saint-Brévin-les-Pins.
According to the head of the NGO Surfrider Foundation in Pornik, “thousands and thousands“These small balls were scattered on several beaches in the city on Friday, January 13.”The air was still calm, on the surface of the sand, there were thousands, shocking, Jean-François Grandsart testifies. The pollution is less noticeable today, with the wind blowing the plastics into the sand over the past few days.“
“I’ve been a volunteer at Surfrider for five years, lived in Pornic for 20 years and never seen this.“, emphasizes Jean-Francois Grandsart. Surfrider’s head of press relations, Lionel Cheylus, confirms that this is an unprecedented pollution of its scale: “There is a regular loss of pellets“But on the coast of France”nothing like that happened from memory“.
What are “mermaid tears”?
“Mermaid’s tears”, also called industrial plastic granules or granules, come in the form of small white spheres. They are transported by manufacturers for the purpose of manufacturing plastic items and then changed. According to Surfrider, a significant amount of pellets are shed “along the production chain“The NGO believes in this 160,000 tonnes of pellets are ‘lost’ by industry in the EU every yearand 230,000 tons worldwide.
These pellets are between 1 mm and 1.5 mm. “The marbles are so small that nothing can be doneJean-Francois Gransart explains. We can try to clean it by hand, but it’s a drop of water. Even the nets of screeners’ nets [machines qui nettoient les plages] it is very big.” These pieces of plastic will therefore break down and become nanoparticles it is taken up by fish, oysters or mussels and ends up on our plates.
Where do these plastic balls come from?
This week in Loire-Atlantique, a team from Cedre (Centre for Documentation, Research and Practice on Accidental Water Pollution) with agents of the Directorate of Territories and the Marine Department conducted intelligence on all the sites. And according to Cedre, this it is impossible to know the origin of this pollution. These industrial plastic pellets have no tracer, they can be new pellets or recycled plastics.
For Surfrider, the most problematic cause of this pollution observed along the Atlantic coast may be the loss of one or more containers at sea by a boat.
Complaints were filed against X
The mayors of Pornique, La Bernerie-en-Retz and Sables-d’Olonne decided to file a complaint in January. “I am asking justice to find and condemn the polluting ship whose cargo litters our beaches– Yannick Moreau, mayor of Sables-d’Olonne, writes on Twitter. Plastic is bad for our oceans and coasts!“
The Regional Council of Pays de la Loire also announced the filing of the complaint this Thursday, “It comes to show our support to elected officials and coastal residents who are seeing their ecosystem damaged by this highly invasive pollution, and whose long-term consequences are likely to be dramatic for fauna and flora.“.
Questioned by Loire-Atlantique Senator Joel Guerriau in the Senate on Wednesday, the Minister of Ecological Transition condemns “ecological nightmare Because tens of thousands of tons of industrial plastic pellets are washed up on all European beaches, which is equal to ten billion plastic bottles. Christophe Bechu says he supports the mayors
who complained andevaluates the possibility that the ministry can join this complaint”.
What measures are being taken to limit this pollution?
In France, the AGEC law, Anti-Waste and Circular Economy, provides from January 1, 2022 “preventive measures for the leakage of industrial plastic pellets, installation of filtration and procedural equipment in the areas of production, transportation and handling of these pellets, as well as external controls“, notes Surfrider. But these procedures “It is not enough to apply outside the territory of France and avoid other causes of pollution, such as the loss of containers“.
The NGO therefore calls on the European Union to take preventive measures and, above all, to take mandatory measures. “Today, manufacturers have an obligation to report“but those plastic pellets waste”there is no penalty behind it“. Surfrider specifically calls for mandatory training of all employees required to use these “siren’s tears”, he wants to punish the EU discharges of industrial plastic pellets applies immediate declaration and cleaning to the environment and in the event of an accident.
For his part, Christophe Bechu reminded on Wednesday that France will host a negotiation session on an international agreement on the elimination of plastics in the spring. “This should be an opportunity for us to address this topic“, the Minister of Ecological Transition emphasized.
Mobilization on the beaches this weekend
To mobilize on the issue and challenge elected officials, Surfrider decided to organize a civic mobilization this weekend at several beaches affected by pollution in Brittany and Pays de la Loire:
- Loire-Atlantique: Noéveillard Beach in Pornic, from 2 p.m.
- Northern Finistère: Kerhornou Beach in Plouarzel, from 10am.
- South Finistère: Tréguenec Beach, from 10am.
- Vendée: Conches Beach in Longeville, from 10am (Vendée and La Rochelle branch activities)