Sieves, colanders, a skimmer… All kinds of utensils were out to collect plastic microbeads on the Noëveillard beach, this Saturday January 21 in Pornic (Loire-Atlantique). Under a bright sun, dozens of residents and members of the Surfrider Foundation spent their afternoon with their hands in the sand to denounce this “massive pollution” which has occurred on several beaches on the Atlantic coast in recent weeks (Loire-Atlantique, Vendée , Finistere).
“It was shocking to see so many, says Jean-François Gransart, representative of the Surfrider Foundation in Loire-Atlantique, who discovered a large quantity last week in Pornic. Usually, when we collect plastic waste on the beach, we count it on the fingers of one hand…”
Same amazement for the mayor (various right) of Pornic, Jean-Michel Brard, who filed a complaint against X, as did the mayor of Sables-d’Olonne (Vendée) and the Pays de la Loire region. “We will have to live with them, because they will take hundreds of years to dissolve, laments the elected Pornicais. They do not agglomerate but disperse and come and go with each tide. »
Tons of marbles lost every year
These industrial plastic granules (IPG), sometimes called “mermaid’s tears” – a nickname that is far too “romantic” in the eyes of ocean protectors – are the raw material for our plastic objects. Very light (less than 5 millimeters in diameter), they are easy to transport and transform. But according to Surfrider Foundation, 160,000 tonnes of pellets are “lost” each year by the industry in the European Union.
According to the Center for Documentation, Research and Experimentation on Accidental Water Pollution (Cedre), which has deployed experts on the beaches concerned, it is extremely difficult to quantify this pollution and to determine its origin. Their grounding can come from the dumping of a container in the open sea but also from a handling accident in a factory or during road transport. Arrived in a ditch then a river, these balls are carried by a river towards the sea.
A decree against “leakage” of pellets
“This type of pollution has been chronic for many years on our coast, in particular on the beaches of the Atlantic and the English Channel”, recalls Nicolas Tamic, assistant to the director of Cedre, based in Brest. Fish, mammals and seabirds are the first affected. “We regularly find these balls when we autopsy these animals,” he continues.
But the depollution of microbeads takes time, because it is done manually using sieves, brooms or leaf blowers. In Sri Lanka, two years were needed to overcome beach pollution with plastic pellets, resulting from the sinking of a cargo ship in 2021.
In France, a decree of April 16, 2021, born of the anti-waste law for a circular economy, obliges manufacturers to secure their equipment and to avoid any leakage of pellets into nature. “But it does not respond to all the risks run, and the European Union has not yet legislated on this file”, regrets Laurent Colasse, founding manager of the SOS Mal de Seine association, who has been working for a long time. on this topic.
In support of the mayors of Pornic and Sables-d’Olonne, the Minister for Ecological Transition Christophe Béchu also announced on Saturday that he wanted to “push on the subject” of European regulations within the framework of the international treaty on the elimination plastics, currently under discussion.
“Move towards more sobriety”
Until then, the risk is to see an increase in accidents, as when typhoon Vicente hit Hong Kong in 2012. At the time, the latter caused a white tide of plastic balls, devastating tourism and local maritime activity. “If you knew the number of freighters that circulate on the Ouessant rail, there is reason to be worried, believes Laurent Colasse. A national task force should be launched to respond to this sword of Damocles. »
On the beach of Pornic, Surfrider Foundation wanted not only to alert industrialists, but also to educate consumers about our addiction to plastic. “We are dying of always more, points out Alain Bourmeau, 81-year-old pornicais and former doctor, who came with signs to express his anger. We will necessarily have to move towards more sobriety in our way of consuming. We owe it to our children and grandchildren. »
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