Plastic plague: An ecological disaster is unfolding on the shores of northern Spain – but could the pellets reach the beaches of the Costa del Sol?

THE millions of plastic pellets that have washed up on the shores of northern Spain and sparked an ecological disaster have now reached France and Portugal.

Could they reach the Costa del Sol?

The Liberia-registered cargo ship Toconao is reported to have spilled over 1,000 bags of microplastics off the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal on December 8.

Similar pellets have already appeared on Bolonia Beach in Tarifa, Cadiz, raising the question of if ocean currents could bring them through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean.

Juan Jesus Martín, of the University of Malaga told Malaga Hoy that it is not impossible. 

Level 2 emergency is declared over millions of pellets of PLASTIC washing up on beaches in Spain
Millions of plastic pellets have been washing up on the shores of northern Spain. Could they make their way to the Costa del Sol?

“When there is a spill on the high seas, the ocean currents can take it to any point,” he said. 

So far, there have been no reported sightings of the plastic plague on the beaches of the Costa del Sol.

“The Strait of Gibraltar is the gate to the Mediterranean, and Malaga is at the heart of the Alboran Sea,” Martín continued.

“If it is confirmed that those that have appeared on the beach of Bologna are the same as those in Galicia, it is possible that they could reach Malaga.

“We hope it doesn’t happen.”

But the professor explained that there are powerful currents that move between the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and that ‘anything that floats can get in.’

While the pellets aren’t directly harmful to people, cleaning them up is challenging due to their tiny, translucent nature – measuring one to 5 millimetres – making them nearly invisible in the sea. 

Laboriously cleaning the beaches by hand – ‘screening the sand’ is the most feasible method, but it requires significant time and resources from volunteers as well as professionals.

Despite this, the threat from the pellets would not necessitate the closure of the beaches.


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