COLOMBO — Along the shoreline north of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, the beaches are littered with millions of tiny white pellets, each about the size of a peppercorn. “The polyethylene pellets can be seen everywhere along the beaches,” says Mala Damayanthi Amarasinghe, a senior professor at the University of Kelaniya. They’re also in the water, and anecdotal accounts paint a worrying picture about their extent there. Local fishers laid nets in their traditional fishing grounds and returned a few days later, Amarasinghe tells Mongabay. “They found that there were no fish, and that the nets were covered with synthetic fibers that made them completely unusable,” she says. “This indicates that the bottom of the fishing ground contains materials from the burning ship.” The “burning ship” is, or was, the MV X-Press Pearl, a newly built Singapore-flagged freighter that caught fire in late May and partially sank off Colombo in early June. The ship’s cargo, much of which fell overboard during the fire and subsequent sinking, included several containers of plastic beads, or nurdles — the raw material for making plastic items — as well as 25 metric tons of nitric acid. It was also carrying 378 metric tons of bunker fuel. Plastic pollution So far, the most visible impact of this marine disaster has been the millions of nurdles that have washed up on the shore, snagged in mangroves, or remain in the sea. “Debris and microplastics can cause entanglement, infections, injuries, and higher mortality rates in marine life,”…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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