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Now that makes a refreshing change

Posted by Richard Wednesday, December 15, 2004

For as long as I can remember, environmentalists have freely flung the epithet "Dirty Man of Europe" at Britain. This has been the special taunt of the Europhiles, who have used it to support the claim that we need EU environment law to keep us up to scratch.

I have my own views on this – especially in respect of the notorious Bathing Water Directive. Given how easy it is to rig the sampling, to ensure that results are favourable, I strongly suspect that Britain’s low place in the EU league owes more to the diligence and honesty of our monitoring than the degree of pollution in our waters.

But now we have another survey – this of the North Sea - and for once the UK is not fingered as "the dirty man". It seems that the Dutch portion is the dirtiest in the entire body of water, with several times more litter, chemicals and other pollutants than off the coasts of other countries.

At a presentation in the coastal town of Texel in Holland, researchers of the "Save the North Sea Project" revealed results of their study on the Fulmar - known for eating almost anything they encounter floating on the water - and found that 97 percent of them had plastic in their stomachs.

On average, however, birds found in Dutch waters had 50 pieces of plastic in their stomachs, compared with 25 pieces for birds found in Scottish waters. "Our region is some two to four times dirtier than other parts of the North Sea," researchers said.

As an indication of the scale of the problem, the researcher estimated that some 20,000 tons, or 70,000 cubic metres, of waste, are dumped into the North Sea every year. Of that, 70 percent sinks to the sea bottom, 15 percent floats on the surface and 15 percent washes up on beaches.

To put that in perspective, by the way, the volume of the North Sea is estimated at 94,000 cubic kilometres. At 94,000,000,000,000 cubic metres, that means the proportion of waste approximates 0.000000075 percent. By contrast, the proportion of gold in seawater is approximately 0.0000025 percent, making the quantity of gold present in seawater throughout the world at more than 9 billion tons. I just thought you would like to know that.