Image credit: Andy Hughes

Clean water campaigners from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are joined by mermaids in celebrating a campaign victory today, World Environment Day, with the release of the British Plastic Federation‘s (BPF) Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) guidance manual. OCS is aimed at improving British plastic factories efficient use of plastic pellets, commonly referred to as mermaid’s tears. SAS had identified these mermaid’s tears on beaches in abundance all over the UK and exposed plastic factories as a source of this pollutant.

Photocall: SAS campaigners and 2 beautiful mermaids will be at the BPF headquarters at 12 noon on Friday the 5th of June, World Environment Day. They will be presented with the OCS document by Paul Jukes, the President of the BPF. The British Plastics Federation, 5 – 6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3JE

Mermaid’s tears are one of the most common litter items on UK beaches. They are the raw material from which plastic products are made and can be a persistent problem in the environment. Once in the sea, they can increase in toxicity as they adsorb aquaphobic chemicals, carcinogenics and PCBs, that can bioaccumulate (work their way up the food chain). As mermaid’s tears resemble fish eggs, SAS are concerned that they are not only unsightly on beaches, but can potentially have an impact on our health by entering the food chain.

SAS initially highlighted the problem of mermaid’s tears on UK beaches to the BPF in 2007. SAS delivered a bottle of 10,000 mermaid’s tears, collected from 1 Cornish beach, to a BPF biopolymer seminar. SAS also released a covert film documenting mermaid’s tears in the storm drains of plastic factories in the southwest, highlighting the route from factory to beach. SAS and the BPF have worked together on the OCS solution. SAS has already signed up Contico, one of the southwest’s largest plastic factories to pilot some of the improvements within OCS.

The BPF are concerned with the impact on the environment, but also the potential lack of financial efficiency. The cost of mermaid’s tears has risen sharply as they are linked with the cost of oil. Factories allowing mermaid’s tears escape down the drain are literally washing their money down the drain.

OCS promotes better house keeping methods within plastic factories, to ensure that during every process mermaid’s tears go through, escapes are minimised, and any lost pellets are recaptured and reused. The BPF represent 80% of British plastic manufacturers and are best placed to roll this positive guidance manual out within the plastics industry.

Andy Cummins, SAS Campaign Manager

Although mermaid's tears themselves are small, they represent a big problem on our beaches. This new guidance is a great victory for SAS and can help the plastics industry protect the environment and become more financially efficient. Everyone's a winner!

Paul Jukes, BPF President

The BPF is delighted to link up with SAS in this way - neither of us wants plastic to end up in our seas, beaches, or anywhere else it shouldn't be, and this is not restricted to just the pellets. Plastic has brought incredible benefits to all our lives, but it should be handled correctly at all times. This applies to manufacturers, hauliers, users, and indeed the general public too - we must all play our part, and this joint initiative between SAS & the BPF is most welcome.