18,720 Pink Bottles

Thousands of bright pink plastic detergent bottles are littering tidelines along Cornwall’s South coast and there are currently vast pink ‘slicks’ of bottles out to sea in the area.

Our friends at Lizard National Trust were the first to spot these bottles on their beaches and believe they are from the container ship, DS Blue Ocean, that lost a number of containers overboard near Lands End in May 2015. 27 tonnes of Vanish detergent were in one of these containers. These containers will have been lying on the sea floor since May, disturbed and reanimated by the recent winter storms dispersing them across beaches in Cornwall.

Surfers Against Sewage has organised a number of community beach cleans this week in response to the pink tide, helping remove hundreds of bottles from the marine environment. Thank you to the 50 ‘Pink Bottle’ beach clean volunteers who joined us at Polurrian, Poldhu, Mullion, Church Cove and Porthleven.

Hero of the day award has to go to Kayak Adventurer Joe Leach! He grew so frustrated at seeing the ‘Slicks’ of bottles floating just offshore that he went home, got his kayak and proceeded to collect over 100 bottles in freezing conditions at Mullion.

Surfers Against Sewage has been in contact with Vanish’s parent company Reckitt Benckiser, believed to manufacture the bottles and contents, and their PR company and received the following statement:

“We can confirm from the results of our investigation that the bottles found on Poldhu Cove Beach, Cornwall are Vanish Liquid stain remover. We have been informed by MacAndrews & Company Ltd that on 19th May, 18,720 units of Vanish were among other containers that were reported missing from cargo ship, DS Blue Ocean. RB was made aware of this issue when contacted by the National Trust on Monday 4th January.  

Reckitt Benckiser has a strong history of environmental performance and the protection and preservation of the environment is a top priority. We continue to work closely with the National Trust and local authorities including Cornwall Council to provide support with the clean-up operation and collection and safe disposal of the recovered product. We are committed to providing all necessary support until the vast majority of the bottles have been recovered. To date, 30-50% are recovered.

We understand that many bottles remain intact, while others have inevitably been damaged due to storms and heavy seas.  We can confirm that the Vanish formulation is readily soluble in water and is highly unlikely to cause major or lasting impact to wildlife or the environment. 

We will work with our suppliers to strengthen accountability and safeguard both our products and the environment.”

Please help the clean up efforts by reporting these bottles to us, the beach owner and/or the local authority so they can be removed.
WARNING: These bottles are thought to contain hazardous and toxic chemicals, only handle with extreme care or report bottles to Cornwall Council and SAS to be removed by experts. Please remember, the contents are most likely toxic and if you decide to remove them, please take precautions (wearing gloves and store in an appropriate container).

As shocking as this disaster has been, each and every volunteer echoed our thoughts that when compared to the 8 million items of marine litter entering our oceans each day this is just a drop in the ocean. ‪#‎marinelittercrisis‬

Download SAS’s Marine Litter Report which sounds the alarm for the UK’s trashed tidelines, highlighting the environmental impacts on marine ecosystems and wildlife.