If you are a fan of swimming, you may know a ‘Nurdle ‘as a kind of floatation device that is fun to sit on motorbike/small pony style or wrap behind your shoulders in the pool and laze the day away. Unfortunately, the word Nurdle can also refer to tiny little plastic pellets that now infest, for that is the word, the Earths’ Oceans.
These Nurdles are less fun due to the damage they are doing to the creatures who inhabit our planet. Nurdles make up up to 98% of the non-biodegradable beach debris found in California.
Approximately 60 billion pounds (27 million tonnes) of nurdles are manufactured annually in the United States. One pound of pelletized HDPE contains approximately 25,000 nurdles.
The math is astounding, and that is in one country.
Apart from the obvious issue of fish and birds eating plastic that they think is food, and then dying, there is also the issue of humans eating fish that are flooded with toxic chemicals due to all the fish we are eating that are filled with plastic.
So what exactly IS a Nurdle, and if they are so ridiculously bad for the environment, why are we making them?
Essentially, Nurdles are like tiny plastic seeds that can be melted and moulded into other things. They are produced in the trillions every year and then shipped to countries that manufacture plastic things, like bowls for the kitchen, and containers for shampoo and the like, and they are useful and super handy because they are colourless and easy to transport in massive quantities via the seaports of the World….and this is where the problems begins.
Every year, across the seas, container ships lose cargo. Sometimes, although rarely, it’s due to a wreck, more often than not it’s due to badly loaded payloads and rough weather.
Anyone who Ocean sails will tell you that the very real risk of smashing into a partly submerged 40 foot cargo container filled with partially saturated blue jeans, or kids toys, or even Lamborghinis (well, this is the fantasy) will keep even the most hardened of sea farers awake at night.
Due to the massive amount of Nurdles produced, it is a statistical truism that sometimes a couple of gazillion plastic pellets make their way from the safety of a cargo hold and out on the open seas to be broken open and distributed into the bellies of every animal that spends its life eating small colourless, floating objects.
This is not one of these environmental issues where some scientists think it’s true and some don’t. Break open the belly of any seabird anywhere in the World and you will find plastic.
Turtles, fish, whales and dolphins, albatross, sea lions and penguins, seals and even Polar Bears have been found with plastic in their guts.
Extracting nutrition from plastic is not one of those things animals have evolved to do.
Doesn’t seem to make any difference to the manufacturers, nor those who mishandle transportation and treat the Ocean like it’s a self-cleansing garbage dump though.
If you think you’ve never seen nurdles at the beach, think again. Dig around in the sand for a bit and you will discover that some of what is in your hand is NOT sand, but plastic. Tiny, sand like, clear plastic.
When a major spill occurs, people often get together to try and remove the pellets from the food chain.
It takes many people days and days to successfully clean even a small beach.
A better solution would be to cut down on the amount of plastic we are consuming. Plastic is SO yesterday, why not look into products like Bamboo for the kitchen? It makes great mixing and serving bowls and utensils.
We also need to insist that plastic manufacturers as well as transportation companies are held to account, not just after an accident or spill happens, but before, so that this damage isn’t allowed to occur.
Prevention is better than cure, and although we are starting from behind, it is not too late to start fighting back on behalf of the generations ahead of us.
Enough of the ‘not my issue’ game, the planet is everyone’s home. Time to de-nurdle the Oceans and treat the creatures in them with love and respect.