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STATEMENT: The World Must Act on Sri Lanka Cargo Ship Disaster

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PORTLAND, OREGON – Nearly two weeks ago, a cargo ship carrying thousands of containers of toxic chemicals, oil and plastic pellets caught fire off the coast of Sri Lanka and in the last several days, began to sink, despite recovery efforts. An undetermined amount of nitric acid has leaked from the ship, and several tons of plastic pellets – which can absorb chemicals and be easily consumed by marine life – have already been collected from nearby beaches.  The following statement was issued by Nicholas Mallos, Senior Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas ® program:

“Our thoughts are with the people of Sri Lanka as they cope with the fallout of this horrific environmental tragedy. As we’ve seen from other instances of pellet spills, the impact that these tiny plastic pieces can have on wildlife and communities can persist for years, if not decades, on end.  Ocean Conservancy has partnered with the Marine Environment Protection Authority in Sri Lanka through the International Coastal Cleanup in the past, and we are committed to doing our part to support them and the people of Sri Lanka in their cleanup efforts in the days, weeks and years to come.

“What commentators are calling Sri Lanka’s “worst marine disaster ever” serves as a stark reminder of terrible risks inherent in our disposable plastics lifestyle and economy.  Microplastics, like these pellets, are all too often ingested by ocean life, finding their way up the food chain and into human diets.  As a global community, we must come together to assist in the cleanup of this catastrophe; ultimately, to prevent future disasters like this we must reduce our reliance on and production of disposable, single-use plastics, period.”

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About Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program

Ocean Conservancy has led the fight for a clean, healthy ocean free of trash since 1986, when the U.S.-based nonprofit launched its annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Since then, Ocean Conservancy has mobilized millions of ICC volunteers to remove trash from beaches and waterways around the world while pioneering upstream solutions to the growing ocean plastics crisis. Ocean Conservancy invests in cutting-edge scientific research, implements on-the-ground projects, and works with conservationists, scientists, governments, the private sector and members of the public to change the plastics paradigm. To learn more about our Trash Free Seas® program visit oceanconservancy.org/trashfreeseas, and follow Ocean Conservancy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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