What are nurdles?
Nurdles are tiny round or cylindrical pieces of plastic resin which are the pre-production phase of many plastic polymers. They are transported around the world between factories and plastic production plants, either by container ship, tanker truck or train. Each year an estimated 27 million tonnes of nurdles (or plastic polymer resin pellets) are produced every year in the USA alone.
Why are nurdles a problem?
Nurdles are a problem because if they escape from the plastic production process or their transportation method they can float along waterways and into the oceans. They have been recorded across the world, on beaches around the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and microplastics have even been found in Antarctica. There have been many recorded incidents of nurdle escapes, including around the coast of Devon.
The MSC Napoli (pictured below), which beached off the East Devon coast in January 2007, was said to have carried two shipping containers full of plastic polymer resin pellets, which then washed up on nearby beaches.
Once nurdles are in the environment they are very difficult to get rid of as they are so small and lightweight. Sea animals can eat them as they mistake them for food. Some studies are also finding that they can concentrate other pollutants, so once they enter a creature’s stomach they may poison them in this way.
What can we do to help?
You can help by recording where you find nurdles at The Great Nurdle Hunt website. Get your friends, Guide or Scout group, school or class involved too. On our Litter Pack pages you can find information about carrying out a Beach Clean in Devon. People are also finding ingenious ways to filter out nurdles from sandy beaches.