A Reddit user shared a picture of mysterious objects that washed up on the beach during their vacation in Europe. The Redditor shared the picture on r/whatisthisthing, a forum dedicated to identifying mystery items. The small plastic objects in the picture are similar in shape to pasta wheels with unusual colors, like green, white, grey, and black.
“I found these little plastic things on the beach. I’ve found them everywhere along the coast of the Netherlands to France. Does anybody know what they are or where they originate from?” the Redditor wrote.
Helpful Reddit users jumped into the comments to uncover the mystery behind the strange objects.
“Gives the bacteria somewhere to attach and grow within the system,” another wrote. “ Not sure why so many would be where you found them though!”
Biological filter media (aka biomedia) is a form of water filtration that provides extra surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow in aquatic spaces. Biomedia is commonly used in ponds, aquariums, and water treatment plants.
However, the amount of biomedia that the Redditor found washed up on various European beaches coincides with rising concerns for biomedia’s contribution to plastic pollution.
“We’ll all be eating them pretty soon,” one Redditor commented under the original user’s post. And when you factor many other sources of microplastics and nanoplastics that often end up in the ocean, like the “nurdles” one beachgoer posted about and the styrofoam many in Australia recently had to clean up themselves, it’s easy to imagine how much of it ends up in the food supply.
According to the Surfrider Foundation, biomedia can be mistaken for food by sea animals due to its shape. Since biomedia filters out bad bacteria from wastewater and other pollutants, mass biomedia leakages pose grave health hazards to animals and humans and can create an environmental crisis. In 2018, a water purification plant accident in Italy caused the leakage of 130 million biomedia filters into the Mediterranean Sea, leading to ongoing legal trials.
Biomedia pollution has the potential to negatively impact your health, food quality, and marine ecosystems. For these reasons, environmental organizations strongly urge the public to report biomedia leakages when they are found.
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