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HP Printer Cartridges ‘Washing Up Across UK, Europe’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The debris is thought to originate from an Atlantic spill more than a year ago

HP printer ink cartridges have been washing up in their thousands across beaches in the UK and Europe, from the Hebrides to the Azores, according to reports.

Individuals have reported finding as many as 100 at a time on Britain’s south and west coasts, as well as in the Irish Republic, France and Portugal, according to Tracey Williams, of Newquay, who is tracking reports from her Facebook page.

Atlantic loss

hp printer inkThe cartridges were lost at sea in a spill in the Atlantic more than a year ago, according to HP, which said it is finalising a donation to support the clean-up of the units.

HP said the water-based ink isn’t harmful to wildlife, but conservationists said such plastic debris is often ingested by sea animals.

Williams told the BBC she first began finding the cartridges in the summer of 2015 on Perranporth Beach, but only began recording reports about a month ago.

She said 100 cartridges had turned up on a beach in the Azores, where one man said he began finding the debris on Flores Island at the beginning of 2014.

Williams has tracked the highest number of cartridge discoveries in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, with many also found in County Kerry in Ireland.

Cartridge collection

HP said the spill occurred during an Atlantic storm, but couldn’t provide details on the number of cartridges lost or the exact location of the spill.

“We are in the process of setting up a fund in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society to support the collection of the cartridges and very much appreciate the support of the local beach cleaning organisations and individuals who have been doing so,” HP told TechWeekEurope.

The company has set up a recycling service and said it would collect and recycle the debris “as quickly and efficiently as possible”. HP urged those who discover cartridges in the UK to telephone 0800 0969766 or email ukoperations@erp-recycling.org to contact the recycling service. In the Irish Republic individuals can contact 1800 848 859 or info@erpcollect.ie.

Oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer estimated a lost 40-foot shipping container could contain about 370,000 printer cartridges, and told the BBC about 3 percent of that, or about 10,000 cartridges, could be expected to be reported by beachcombers.

The latest debris reports follow finds of thousands of bright pink plastic detergent bottles washing up on Cornish beaches last week, thought to have been lost at sea during a storm in May 2015.

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