Viridor sponsors beach cleaning trommels in South West and South Wales

Viridor has partnered with community interest company Nurdle to distribute 15 beach cleaning trommels across south west England and south Wales.

Volunteers taking part in a beach clean

The trommels, which can be used to sift through the sand and collect microplastics, have been donated to Plastic Free North Devon, North Devon AONB (Area of Outstanding Beauty) and local Eco Schools, with more donations set to follow as beach cleaning events take place throughout the region.

Viridor’s beach clean sponsorship project was launched today (13 March) at Croyde in North Devon, where Nurdle is based, with further beach cleans planned at Perranporth (7 April), Bournemouth (18 April), Weston-super-Mare (22 May) and Swansea Bay (23 May).

Viridor recently announced that it was calling on businesses and local authorities in the South West and south Wales to collaborate on ensuring all plastics in the area were given a recycling solution, as well as announcing that from 2020 all its plastic recycling will be processed in the UK.

Viridor Managing Director Phil Piddington commented: “We think the thousands of dedicated volunteers who regularly give up their time to clean up our beautiful beaches need the support of local businesses and the right tools to make the most of their efforts.

“Since we are in the business of recycling and putting the right stuff in the right bin, this is the kind of community activity that we are proud to support.”

Dan Cooke, Viridor’s Head of Sustainability, added: “Sponsoring the Nurdle trommels helps us accomplish our goals in terms of practical action to capture and recycle more plastics. But we wanted to take that one step further and so we will be taking the beach plastic which is collected to give it a recycling solution.

“The plastic will be used to create fence posts and similar products, which themselves are designed to be recycled when they reach end-of-life. We’ll also be working with universities and research partners to explore alternative recycling solutions for these materials. Plastic, like the glass, paper and aluminium cans which come through our recycling facilities, should be put back into a circular economy wherever possible.”

Nurdle has already collected more than 25 million pieces of microplastic, sieving 2.1 tonnes of sand and removing 5,350,000 pieces of plastic on a single beach clean.

Viridor’s sponsorship will provide Nurdle with funds to complete the prototype of the company’s larger microplastics collector, the ‘Basking Shark’, which has the capacity to collect 840 litres of microplastics, or around 16 million pieces of plastic, in a single load.

With between eight and 12 million tonnes of plastics entering the oceans every year, microplastics have become ubiquitous in the natural environment, with the tiny particles found even in the stomachs of creatures living in the deepest part of the ocean.

Despite their presence in the environment and the food that we eat, the impact of microplastics on human health if ingested remains unclear, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) calling for further research, though researchers in Utrecht, the Netherlands, have found evidence to suggest that they may cause damage to human immune cells.

Nurdle will be sharing any data collected from the project with Plymouth University, where marine litter expert Professor Richard Thompson works, to support research on microplastics

Sylvie Verinder, Co-Director at Nurdle, explained: “Coastal environments play a major role in capturing and filtering ocean plastic debris. A large portion of plastic pollution from the land is likely to return to shore not long after being released. We need to capture this before a proportion escapes to offshore waters, fluxes around the coast or gets consumed by local wildlife mistaking it for food. 

“Floating plastic is slowly fragmenting as it moves around in coastal environments, and some eventually makes its way to offshore waters. Capturing microplastics, as well as macroplastics, on beach cleans, along with ocean clean-ups will make a significant difference to our environment.”

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