The several thousands of bright, pink plastic bottles that washed up on some Cornwall beaches over the past week are ours, says Reckitt Benckiser, a British multinational consumer goods company headquartered in Slough.
According to Reckitt Benckiser, they were unlabelled containers of Vanish – a stain removal product commonly sold in most supermarkets. There has been concern among volunteers who have been removing the bottles, because some of them were leaking.
The pink, plastic bottles started appearing on the beach at Poldhu Cove on the Lizard, southwest Cornwall. Then thousands more washed up on the beaches of Gunwalloe, Polurrian, Loe Bar, Marazion, Mount’s Bay and Porthleven.
Culdrose Naval Air Station volunteers helping collect more bottles that appeared on the beach. (Image: www.facebook.com)
The company, which said it was “providing all the agencies involved in the clear up with logistical and financial support”, informed that the pink bottles came from a container that was lost at sea off a ship near Land’s End in May 2015.
Reckitt Benckiser’s products, which are sold in more than 200 countries, include some well known names such as sore throat lozenges Strepsils, air freshener Air Wick, hair removal brand Veet, antiseptic brand Dettol, as well as Vanish, Mycil, Durex, Calgon and Clearasil.
On Friday, volunteers from Culdrose Naval Air Station helped collect more plastic bottles at Poldhu Beach.
“Alongside staff from the National trust and members of the public, several hundred bottles were collected, some empty, but plenty still full of a cleaning product washed up after strong winds pushed the bottles ashore from shipping containers, believed to have been lost at sea in May 2015.”
“The clean up operation will continue for the foreseeable future, until all the bottles have washed up along the Cornish coast.”
According to Cornwall Council, the container that fell into the sea from a ship, carried 18,720 bottles of Vanish. So far, about half of them have been accounted for.
National Trust SW says more bottles will continue washing up on Cornwall’s beaches. (Image: twitter.com/NTSouthWest)
Concern regarding damage to marine environment
Nobody yet knows what the effect of leaking bottles of Vanish might be on the local marine wildlife. The stain remover has caustic properties – it can burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action.
Cornwall Council has warned people to keep children and pets well away from the bottles should any more be washed up. “No attempt should be made to recover the bottles,” it added.
“Well, Poldhu’s tide of pink bottles has caused a national media frenzy! It’s been a hectic day of radio and TV interviews for Justin our Lead Ranger, and Alan, Friends of Poldhu group co-ordinator. Let’s hope we’re through the worst but I fear we may be seeing more of the pink things yet!”
According to the National Trust, the pink bottles appear on the beach following the high tide. (Image: twitter.com/NTPressOffice)
Friends of Poldhu, whose members first spotted the pink bottles on the beach, thanked all the volunteers who helped with the massive clean-up.
Although clearing the bottles is a straightforward operation, Friends of Poldhu is concerned about the environmental consequences. After each high tide, lines of pulverized plastic are seen on the beach close to the water.
In an interview with Pirate FM, Alan Noble, from Friends of Poldhu said:
“Plastic poses a risk to everybody, including humans. One only has to look onto the beach and you can see hundreds of micro pieces of plastic.”
“It gets into fish, it gets into the food chain – it gets into us. Most of them are still sealed and they haven’t leaked. But who knows how many more are out there being pounded by the surf.”
Nearly thirty tonnes of unlabelled Vanish bottles, that came from a container that fell from a ship off Land’s End last year, have washed up on several Cornish beaches, including Gunwalloe, Poldhu Cove and several others.
Ross Hocking, who owns the Poldhu Beach Café, says he has watched the thousands of bottles come in each day, and then taken away by volunteers.
Mr. Hocking told Western Morning News:
“I think they will be coming in for months. The way the wind and tide is going, it will be a long time before they stop completely coming in. I am pretty sure they have fallen off some container ship – the National Trust are looking into finding out exactly where they are from.”
“They are completely unbranded, detergent-like bottles which are pink. Every minute more are turning up. It’s a bit annoying really, but lots of people have been helping. We get rubbish daily – the vast majority of which is marine waste – but in terms of quantity of the same, this is the worst we have had in a while. Because we are on the point of the Lizard we get affected more.”
Video – Pink bottles wash up on Cornish coast