A beautiful day for a beach clean!

The Great Nurdle Hunt February 2017

People: “What are you doing this weekend?”

Nic & James: “Going nurdle hunting”

People: *strange looks*

Most People Have Never Heard of a Nurdle

Not surprising really, they’re not exactly noticeable, and hunting them requires you to be on hands and knees with your face inches away from the ground.

These teeny tiny plastic pellets are no bigger than a lentil, but pose a HUGE threat to our marine ecosystem. Countless billions are used each year in all types of plastic manufacturing processes. Pour them into a plastic moulding machine, heat them up until they melt and then squeeze them into a mould - hey presto - every plastic product you can imagine. Mishandling by the plastics industry and spills at sea are the main reason they end up in the ocean.

The Messy Problem of Marine Debris...

...has been highlighted in the media these last few weeks. It’s a problem that’s not going to disappear any time soon – plastic does not completely degrade. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. And it’s these small pieces, along with nurdles, that get eaten by marine life.

180 species of marine animals including, mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates have been found to have ingested plastic. Unfortunately, nurdles look a lot like fish eggs – a favourite food of many marine animals. They can get trapped in the animal's stomach causing ulceration, making them feel full and stopping them eating real food. It is also very likely that highly toxic chemicals on the surface of the plastic transfer into the food chain. Unfortunately, humans are at the top of this chain. Any toxins present will eventually make their way into our food.

Nurdles look a lot like these herring eggs

The Power of Citizen Science

Citizen science is becoming an extremely important method for gathering evidence and information on environmental issues. The Great Nurdle Hunt’s Nurdle Map shows reports from volunteers around the country (and beyond!). If you zoom in on the North East, you can see that even our beautiful beaches, that look relatively clean, hold evidence of pesky nurdles.

Nic and James visited Blyth Beach for their hunt. It took a while to find them. As they walked along the sand towards Seaton Sluice, they started to find more and more on the strand line. They also took a bucket to collect the larger bits of litter as they went.

In 45 minutes, they found 63 nurdles. A relatively low number compared to some beaches in the area, but definite proof that there is a problem in South Northumberland.

The Great Nurdle Hunt is an annual event. By taking part and submitting evidence, we can help drive changes in policies to stop plastic companies from having a detrimental effect on our precious marine environment. Plus... it’s great fun!

Posted in Environment.

Nic Emery

Nic is one of the co-founders of The Fifth Point. She is a Master Instructor with a keen interest in environmental conservation.

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