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Hundreds of volunteers had to step in with colanders and shovels when millions of plastic pellets washed up on the Spanish coast in the country’s northwestern Galicia region.

These mermaid tears or nurdles are used to manufacture various everyday plastic items like shopping bags or water bottles. It’s believed they came from a container that fell from the Toconao off the coast of Portugal in December.

The Toconao is a vessel that’s registered in Liberia and was chartered by shipping giant Maersk.

The matter has caused uproar in the local region as it’s believed the local government knew about it two weeks ago already but only made an effort to report it during the last few days.

Local volunteers could be seen using household items to sift through the sand in an attempt to find as many of the tiny pieces of plastic as possible.

Ecologistas en Accion, a Spanish environmentalist group, denounced the local government’s “inaction two weeks after detecting the spill” and on Friday announced in a statement that it plans to file an environmental crime complaint against the Dutch owner of the vessel.

Image credit: CBC

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