Under the Microscope with Microplastics: The Great Global Nurdle Hunt explained.
13/03/2020 – 22/03/2020
This week marks the start of The Great Global Nurdle Hunt, an international effort to remove these pesky microplastics from our beaches! But what exactly are nurdles? And how can we, the public, make a difference?
What are nurdles?
The likelihood is anyone who’s been to a beach, estuary, or waterway, will have come in to contact with nurdles. But due to their size, it’s perfectly possible that we could have missed them all together!
Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets, approximately the size of a lentil. They are used in the manufacture of – you guessed it –plastic products! Because of their size, nurdles are a handy way to transport the raw materials needed for plastic production, before they are melted down and used to produce nearly all of our plastic products.
The problem with nurdles
As they are produced, transported, and recycled, accidental spillage and mishandling leads to billions of nurdles ending up in the ocean. As a result, a rising number of nurdles are being found in our seas, leading to great concern for a variety of reasons:
- Wildlife – due to their size and colour, nurdles look similar in appearance to fisheggs, and other small animals, which other species rely on as a food source. Seabirds, fish, and other marine wildlife cannot tell the difference! Indeed, more than 220 marine species have been shown to ingest plastic debris, including nurdles. Consuming plastic in this way can lead to starvation and potentially death!
- Pollutants – plastic is essentially a cocktail of chemicals, and nurdles are no different. As well as the chemicals they are made from, nurdles and other plastics, have also been seen to attract chemical contaminants to their surface whilst in the ocean, and then transport them wherever they may go. Indeed, long lasting harmful chemicals, such as Persistent Organic Pollutants, have been found on plastics in the oceans at over 1,000,000 times the background level!
Clearly with so many implications for the environment, coupled with their tiny form, and persistence, nurdles are a real problem in the fight against plastic pollution!
What is The Great Global Nurdle Hunt?
The Great Global Nurdle Hunt is a project originally set up in Scotland by Fidra, an environmental charity, working to end nurdle pollution. The idea is that individuals and organisations, like us, can be facilitated to work together to remove nurdles from the environment globally.
This year (2020), The Great Global Nurdle Hunt will be taking place between the 13th and 22nd of March. Hunts will be taking place all over the world (To find your closest, head to: https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/take-part/the-great-global-nurdle-hunt.html)
How are our #LivingSeas Team getting involved?
Our #LivingSeas Team will be taking place in The Great Global Nurdle Hunt at various locations across the Welsh coast:
South and West Wales (WTSWW)
- 17th March 2020 ‖ 9.00 – 10.30 ‖ Poppit Sands (Meeting at Cardigan Lifeboat Station) ‖ Nurdle Hunt ‖ *UPDATE* We found 136 nurdles and biobeads over a 90 minute period at Poppit Sands. A huge thank you to both the public and volunteers who came along to help!
- *CANCELLED* 20th March 2020 ‖ 11.30 – 13.30 ‖ New Quay (Meeting at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre) ‖ Beach Clean.
North Wales (NWWT)
- 13th March 2020 ‖ 14.00 – 16.00 ‖ Tywyn (Meeting at Aberdyfi Cemetery Layby) ‖ Nurdle Hunt ‖ *UPDATE* 46 biobeads, 771 nurdles and 6 nurdle hunters! A hugely successful haul with various other microplastics, polystyrene, BB pellets and fishing floats also found.
- 14th March 2020 ‖ 10.00 – 12.00 ‖ Kinmel Bay ‖ Nurdle Hunt and Strandline Search ‖ *UPDATE* No nurdles were found on this occasion, however the eggcase hunt and strandline search were both very successful! Again, a thank you to those who came along – including this wonderful Welsh Dragon!
- *CANCELLED* 22nd March 2020 ‖ 12.00 – 14.30 ‖ Porth y Corgwl (Meeting at Rhoscolyn Beach Car Park) ‖ Nurdle Hunt.
What can I do?
Participating in events like The Great Global Nurdle Hunt helps to reduce the number of nurdles we find on our beaches, and in our waters. You can also help to remove nurdles, and other plastic, at beach clean events, or in your own time – just take a bag and pair of gloves with you to the beach!
But removing nurdles and other plastics from the environment is just the final step in the chain. To truly make an impact, we need to reduce the number of nurdles entering the environment in the first place, and this means reducing our plastic consumption. There are plenty of easy ways we can cut down on plastic usage in everyday life. Here are our #LivingSeas Teams’ top 5 tips:
- Switch your single-use plastic bottle for a reusable metal one.
- Upcycle and swap your old clothing – you can easily get a fancy new wardrobe at a fraction of the cost (for your purse and the environment!).
- Say no to products wrapped in plastic.
- If you must buy products in plastic packaging, buy in bulk.
- Change from your usual tea bags to a plastic free brand (see here for options), or better still switch back to tea leaves.
Want to learn more?
Nurdle Hunt: https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/
Main image: WTSWW © Nurdles and various plastics collected in New Quay, Ceredigion.