73% Of UK Shoreline Littered With Plastic Pellet “Nurdles”

Over 600 volunteers around the UK scoured local beaches for tiny plastic pellets called “nurdles” and discovered them on almost three-quarters of the beaches surveyed. 

Nurdles are found on shorelines from Shetland to The Scilly Isles. Not only are beaches affected, but also freshwater riverbanks, with reports from central London and inland Yorkshire, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says.

The largest number of nurdles counted was at Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, where a shocking 127,500 were collected on a 100 metre stretch of beach.

“Simple precautionary measures can help prevent spillages and ensure nurdles don’t end up in our environment. We are asking the UK government to ensure best practice is in place along the full plastic supply chain, and any further nurdle pollution is stopped.”

The weekend was organised by Fidra’s The Great Nurdle Hunt, in collaboration with the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International, Greenpeace, Surfers Against Sewage and MCS.

The data gathered will be fed into the current UK Government microplastics consultation and it’s hoped will result in the introduction of baseline measures that are needed to stop accidental spills of nurdles.

Nurdles are lentil-sized plastic pellets, used as a raw material by manufacturers to make new plastic products. Up to 53 billion pellets are estimated to be lost to the UK environment each year, and spillage of pre-production plastics are thought to be the second largest source of primary microplastic to EU seas If accidental spills are not dealt with correctly these pellets can end up indrains, watercourses, and at sea.

Once in the marine environment, nurdles can be eaten by animals such and fish and seabirds. Like other microplastics, they can stay trapped in their stomachs and reduce appetite, affecting digestion and growth nurdles can also soak up chemical pollutants from their surroundings and release these toxins into animals that eat them or feed near them, causing serious harm.

Madeleine Berg, Projects Officer at Fidra: “We are delighted that so many nurdle hunters braved the winter weather this weekend. The information we’ve gathered will be vital to show the UK government that pellets are found on beaches all around the UK, and, importantly, that so many people care about the issue.

“Simple precautionary measures can help prevent spillages and ensure nurdles don’t end up in our environment. We are asking the UK government to ensure best practice is in place along the full plastic supply chain, and any further nurdle pollution is stopped.”

The findings will be added to evidence already gathered by The Great Nurdle Hunt, a project aiming to stop further pellet pollution into seas and oceans using a combination of public and industry engagement.

Their online nurdle map pinpoints hundreds of locations where pellets have been found across the UK, Europe and further afield. Fidra have been working with the UK plastics industry since 2012 to promote best practice to help end further pellet pollution.


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