ENVIRONMENT officers are on the hunt for illegal dumpers responsible for clogging-up Wearside’s beaches with shredded plastic bags.
Waste crime officers from the Environment Agency are scratching their heads as to the source of the nuisance, which is posing a risk to wildlife.
The bags, which are from various supermarkets and shops, have been deliberately cut into strips before being dumped.
The incidents, which have affected both Roker and Seaburn beaches, have been reported over the course of a year.
Dave Edwardson, environmental crime team leader for the Environment Agency, said: “We are looking for information to help us track down whoever is dumping these plastic bags illegally.
“Sunderland Council puts in a lot of hard work to keep the beaches clean, but we need to find the people responsible to stop them being dumped and affecting the local coastline.
“We have been investigating potential sources including local foul and surface water sewers, waste plastics operators, the local supermarket, the port and marina for any activity, but have yet to find the people responsible.
Mr Edwardson said a fly-tipper might be responsible for the waste, or the plastic could have been dumped from a ship.
He gave a stark warning to illegal dumpers, who face jail sentences and hefty fines if they are caught.
He said: “Whoever is dumping the plastics is in breach of environmental permitting regulations, the penalties for which can be an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment for the most serious offences at Crown Court.”
Mr Edwardson said as well as being unsightly, the cut-up bags are a potential hazard to coastal wildlife. They can also become tangled up in seaweed and remain in the area for a long time.
The dumping incidents have come as Sunderland City Council make efforts to revamp the city’s seafront, which is seen as one of Wearside’s best assets.
They fly in the face of efforts by the council, the Marine Conservation Society and others to keep the city’s Blue flag-winning beaches clean.
l Anyone with information about the plastic bag dumping incidents should contact the Environment Agency’s 24-hour hotline 0800 80 70 60 or call crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.