Unidentified Floating Objects (UFOs)


A Marine Litter campaign

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Unidentified Floating Objects (UFOs)

The campaign

Surfers Against Sewage’s Unidentified Floating Objects (UFO) campaign aims to identify, trace and eliminate persistent items of marine litter found on UK beaches. We will seek to identify regularly occurring, unidentified litter items through research, social networks and other consultation to then tackle those responsible. Once the item is identified, we would call on the manufacturer, distributor or business to develop active and improved product stewardship strategies to protect the environment.

Should the polluter fail to develop and implement effective solutions, we can request a prosecution by the regulator.

We are calling for supporters, volunteers and the wider public to send photos and real samples of potential UFOs for investigation and promotion through our extensive supporter networks.

With the help of our extensive supporter network, the campaigns team are working hard on identifying both of our current objects and has recently discovered the name and source of the blue foam balls washing up nationwide: TAPROGGE BALLS used in cleaning cooling pipes in power stations (and other industrial systems). We are currently in dialogue with the Environment Agency on how to prevent the further escape of these balls into the marine environment.  This campaign has already successfully reduced the numbers of Taprogge balls being released from power stations by many tens of thousands.  Read about this campaign success here.    

SAS is still working to identify our second UFO, the blue ‘stoppers’, found regularly on Newquay, Porthtowan and Perranporth beaches in Cornwall. Ear plugs are a reoccurring suggestion from supporters, however, they are too big and hard for ears. These look like bungs, but who uses them, what for and where? Email [email protected] if you have any information that might help us identify this UFO!

Get involved

How can you help with this campaign…

  • If you witness a UFO on your beach, and if it's safe to do so, capture it and send it to SAS's Area 51 gallery by post or send an image to info [at] sas [dot] org [dot] uk and we'll upload it. From here we can call on experts all over the world to aid us with identifying these UFO.
  • Please also email your identification ideas of the blue bung UFOs to info [at] sas [dot] org [dot] uk

Campaign timeline

Key campaign dates


Campaign launched!

After many years of finding the strange blue bungs at SAS beach clean events in the south west, SAS campaigners set out to identify where they came from, with a view to approaching the polluter and preventing the blue bungs from entering the environment.

The UFO campaign was born!

Soon another UFO was identified on Saltburn beach.  Small, coarse blue foam balls were being found on Saltburn, Marske and Redcar beaches in their thousands.


Strong lead on UFO


At an SAS community beach clean in Saltburn, a confidential tip off from an SAS supporter, who also worked at the local Nuclear power station, divulges some interesting information about the blue foam balls.

Further investigations by the SAS campaign team confirms the blue foam balls are “Taprogge Balls”, used in Hartlepool’s nuclear power station for cleaning pipes.


Meeting with the regulator


SAS campaigners met with the Environment Agency to discuss the unlicensed waste discharge of Taprogge Balls from UK power stations.

As a result of these discussions, combustion power station licenses have been updated with measures to prevent Taprogge Balls escaping into the marine environment.

Updating the licenses for nuclear power stations is an ongoing project.


False identification of UFO

SAS receive some credible information about the blue bung UFOs.  However, after significant investigations the team reaches another dead end.  The truth is out there, and the investigation continues.


Nuclear update


SAS meet again with regulators and work on revising nuclear power stations discharge license.

Voluntary improvements are put in place at several power stations including Shoreham, Marchwood and Hartlepool nuclear power station to reduce the number of Taprogge Balls escaping to the marine environment.