SAS Celebrate A UFO Campaign Victory!

Our Unidentified Floating Objects (UFO) campaign aims to identify, trace and eliminate persistent items of marine litter found on UK beaches. We aim to identify regularly occurring, unidentified marine litter items through research, social networks and other consultation to then tackle those responsible for polluting the marine environment. Once the item has been identified, we contact the manufacturer, distributor, business or regulator, calling for an active and improved product stewardship strategy to protect the environment.

In 2010, strange small, coarse blue foam balls were being found in the thousands by SAS volunteers on Saltburn, Marske and Redcar beaches. The UFOs in question were later identified as Taprogge balls, used in the nearby Hartlepool nuclear power station. Taprogge balls, which can be blue, cream or red, are used to scour industrial cooling systems, including those of power stations. After further research, both in the North East and nationwide, it was clear that Taprogge balls were escaping into the environment from a number of power stations around the coast, adding to the rising tide of marine litter.

Surfers Against Sewage raised these concerns with individual power stations and the Environment Agency, calling for solutions to prevent the release of Taprogge balls into the ocean. We have recently received an update from the Environment Agency confirming that new measures are being put in place by the power stations in questions to better control and prevent the ongoing release of Taprogge balls, including:

  • Upgrading & improving the filter screens.
  • Introducing weekly Taprogge ball counting and inspection to identify, remove and replace balls showing signs of degradation.
  • Introduced new procedures to capture balls during maintenance.
  • Improve the recording of Taprogge ball losses.
  • Monitoring, recording & investigating significant spill events.

These improvements will reduce the number of Taprogge balls escaping to the marine environment by between 70-80%. These improvements have already been introduced at 3 power stations including Shoreham (nr Brighton), Marchwood (nr Southampton) and Hartlepool.  Surfers Against Sewage will continue to push for further control measures at these power stations and identify any others that need to introduce improved containment protocols.

If you’re beach is being invaded by UFOs please contact [email protected] with images, location details and any other relevant information.

Marine litter is one of the greatest threats facing our coastline.  In our new Marine Litter Report we detail the devastating impacts marine litter is having on our coast and set out the ambitious aspiration of reducing levels of marine litter by 50% by 2020.