During the past couple of months, a large number of plastic Otrivin bottles have been found washed up on shorelines along the south coast, including in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. As of 4 February more than 1,600 bottles had been reported.
The bottles have the potential to be extremely harmful to marine life. Due to their size, larger marine mammals like seals and dolphins could be at risk of swallowing them. As the bottles are exposed to oxygen and sunlight, they will also begin to break down into microplastics which could be ingested by smaller marine animals.
The source of the bottles is currently unknown. Otrivin is a nasal decongestant sold by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. However, the labels on the bottles indicate that they date from before GSK acquired the brand. It is possible that a container carrying the bottles has been sitting on the seabed for several years, but has only recently broken open.
The distribution of the bottles is being tracked by reporter Kristen Bounds and Professor Richard Thompson from the University of Plymouth. They are compiling reports into an interactive map with the aim of gaining insights into the legacy of plastic pollution in our seas.
If you find any Otrivin bottles on our shores, please take them home for recycling and email Kristen Bounds with the date, location, and ideally a photo of the bottles as you found them.