On Saturday morning 6 January 2018 huge numbers of black plastic granules beached on the island of Texel in the Netherlands. This type of granules resembles the industrial plastic pellets that are used as the raw material to produce our plastic consumer products. But those are usually milky white or transparent, and rarely have a black colour except in recycled plastics.
The granules found probably have their source in sewage treatment systems. It is known that some sewage treatment plants use these granules (‘Bio-Beads’) for biological purification of the wastewater. The sewage water is then pressed through basins with these bio-beads, in which the beads provide a large surface area for the micro-organisms that use organic substances in the water for their growth.
Apparently accidents occasionally do take place that lead to release of the plastic particles in the water that is being discharged. In Cornwall, England, it is a well known environmental problem which has led to the recent publication of a dedicated report. In the Netherlands, we occasionally experience beaching of bio-beads. From earlier photos it seems we had similar incidents in 2008, 2011 and 2014.
It is not clear whether the beach incident on Texel was caused by a recent accidental discharge. Possibly information of similar beach events further south can tell us a bit more about the source. Please notify us on your observations.
A possibility is also that recent heavy rainfall and storm events have disturbed old riverine or marine bank sediments which released their contents and were transported by currents to the Netherlands. At this stage it is unclear whether Dutch sewage farms use plastic bio-beads.
(PS 27-Nov-2018: we recently received notification of blackish biobead like pellets along the shores of river Meuse in the far south of the province of Limburg, potentially from a source within the Netherlands. Details to be provided later.)