New threat to wildlife on Matakana Island – 17 tonnes of tiny plastic beads from Rena

A container holding 17 tonnes of tiny plastic beads is causing a new environmental threat on Matakana Island. Beads which have spilled on to the island’s beach are a threat to wildlife if they are eaten.

Maritime NZ advised yesterday morning that the container of beads, which came ashore on the island on Friday, has been removed from the surf and stabilised. But now the task of recovering beads from the beach has started.

The container held 660 bags, containing nearly 17 tonnes of the beads, which are 2-3mm translucent polymer beads used in the plastics industry. Yesterday’s photo (above), from Maritime NZ, shows just one of the bags, with beads spilled on the beach.

The beads potentially pose a threat to wildlife, which may ingest them. Braemar Howells says that urgent steps have been taken to try and stop any more beads escaping into the environment.

Maritime NZ reported yesterday that its wildlife team is following up on reports of birds ingesting plastic beads, but has no confirmed cases of wildlife affected by debris to date.

There are still 11 containers on Matakana Island. Work continues to remove them.

Waihi Beach was yesterday free of containers – a total of 17 have been taken away for processing. There were three more containers in the Bowentown heads area to be processed – on rocks at the entrance and in Anzac Bay. Two more containers were ashore north of Waihi Beach in rocky coves.

The recovery team is hopeful it has dealt with all the loose containers which have been afloat.

Shoreline clean-up assessment teams have identified fresh oil at Papamoa East. The team has recorded small spots of oil measuring up to 2cm and stretching over 2km of coastline.