Consequences of plastic from overboard containers on animal life investigated

Dutch public works department Rijkswaterstaat is launching an investigation into what consequences small plastic particles that ended up in the Wadden sea after 291 containers fell off a ship in the North Sea last week will have for animals in the area. The investigation will be done in cooperation with scientific institute Waddenacademie in Leeuwarden. The results will also show which measures can be taken so that the Wadden Sea is better protected, NU.nl reports.

The cargo of the overboard containers consisted partly of polystyrene and so-called HDPE granules, a raw material for the plastic industry. These plastics are too small to be cleaned up properly. They also break down very slowly, so will remain in the environment for a long time. There are concerns that birds and other animals may see the plastic as food.

The mayors of the Wadden Islands sent a letter to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, demanding that container transport at sea be made safer. They want better supervision and enforcement on the loading and lashing of the sea containers. They also want containers to be equipped with a chip and GPS marker, so that they can more easily be tracked down if they go overboard. Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure and Water Management will visit Terschelling on Thursday. The island's mayor, Bert Wassink, will hand her the letter.

It was initially reported that 281 containers fell off the MSC Zoe in the North Sea last week. But on Wednesday shipping company MSC announced that it was actually 291. According to MSC, 21 containers completely washed ashore. Around 220 containers were located at the bottom of the North Sea. Some have been recovered, but others are still on the sea bed.

Items in the containers ended up on the beaches of islands Terschelling, Vleiland, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, on mainland Groningen and Friesland, and in the North Sea and Wadden Sea. Cleaning teams collected a total of 1.22 million kilograms of waste at these locations in the past week. 

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