Millions of plastic pellets are washing ashore in northwestern Spain after a cargo ship, Toconao, used by shipping company Maersk, lost six containers, including one with thousands of 25-kilogram bags of white plastic pellets.
Toconao lost the containers off Viana do Castelo, a coastal city in Portugal, on Dec. 8, 2023. The vessel was headed to Rotterdam, Netherlands. At least one of those containers belonged to Poland-based plastic manufacturer Bedeko Europe, according to a statement by Spanish environmental group Ecologistas en Accion. Bedeko Europe did not reply to Sustainable Plastics' request for comment at the time of publication.
Bedeko Europe denies the charge, stating it has "no responsibility" for the incident.
"We would like to emphatically state that despite our company's name appearing on the found bags, we are not their owners and do not bear responsibility for the resulting damage," Urszula Hass, purchasing and logistics director at Bedeko Europe told Sustainable Plastics. "The owner is an Indian manufacturer and the responsibility for the loss of many containers at sea, including one with granulate, rests with the transport company Maersk, which carried out this transport with full insurance for such events.
"Representatives of Maersk are currently in the process of contacting interested parties and coastal management companies to resolve the problem.
Bedeko Europe did not clarify who the Indian manufacturer is nor why the bags had the company's branding if they don't belong to it.
The "blame game" over the spill and subsequent slow response has extended to Spanish local and national authorities, Reuters reported. Residents and environmental groups are concerned about the potential impact and how it could affect fishing. Volunteers have been cleaning the beach with colanders and shovels in the past week.
“The Noialimpa collective began to denounce this spill on Dec. 26, when plastics began to arrive en masse to the Galician beaches, raising the alarm,” Ecologistas en Accion said in a statement. “However, the environmental and marine groups denounce the inaction of the city council, which did not sound an alert when it was notified of the loss of the containers nor activated measures in the 18 days prior to the arrival of plastics on the beaches, time in which much of the pollution could have been avoided by intercepting the bags that were floating in the sea before they broke when clashing against the rocks, spreading their load,” the group criticized.
Reuters has reported that Galicia's regional leader, Alfonso Rueda, of Spain's conservative opposition People's Party, said the central government had known about the pellets being scattered for over two weeks but only informed his administration on Jan. 4.
Madrid's representative in Galicia said the maritime rescue service had first informed regional coast guards about the incident on Dec. 20.
The blame game is likely to continue as the public is demanding clean-up actions and studies to determine the potential environmental damaged.
Ecologistas en Accion said on Jan. 5 it would file an environmental crime complaint against Toucan Maritime, the Dutch owner of the vessel.