Today, the Dutch NGO, Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF) has released its results of an investigation into the pollution of rivers and waterways surrounding three major ports in the Netherlands.

 

The photos, images and samples they collected show the shocking and widespread nurdle pollution found in this area, which they describe as a ‘structural and large-scale problem’. The ports are among the largest plastic production hubs in Europe. The Port of Antwerp for example has, over the past 2 years, been the focus of heightened industry effort to use voluntary commitments to reduce pellet loss, which this new evidence highlights has not yet proven successful[1]. Nurdle pollution from these hubs extends downriver to the Schelde estuary, which is home to several internationally recognised nature reserves.

 

The investigations undertaken by PSF build upon the ongoing documentation of pellet (or nurdle) spills by The Great Nurdle Hunt’s online map, where nurdles have been reported washed up in their thousands on beaches across the globe; from the Galapagos Islands to Greece, the Netherlands to New Zealand. The evidence collected by PSF further support the understanding that plastic pellets are lost on a huge scale across Europe from all stages of the supply chain; throughout the industrial processes, from production sites to convertors and during transport, storage and shipping[2].This evidence shows that the problem is truly is one of global significance, highlighting that areas in the UK and Europe contribute significantly to the problem. In Europe alone up to 167,431 tonnes of pellets are estimated to be lost to the environment every year (or 265,000 nurdles per second![3]) [4], with 78,000 tonnes of these pellets expected to be washed into the oceans annually.

 

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 Photo Credit: Plastic Soup Foundation

 

It is clear, that current measures used to prevent pellet loss on an industry wide scale are insufficient, with a lack of accountability for pellets handled throughout the plastic supply chain. All companies handling pellets must take full responsibility of the pellets they handle. That is why, alongside Flora and Fauna International (FFI) and the Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) we are calling for a new supply chain approach to tackling pellet loss across the plastics supply chain[5]; an approach supported by a growing number of industry bodies, national governments and intergovernmental panels. We believe the solution lies in an approach that ensure certified best practice measures are implemented by all companies handling plastic pellets and effectively communicated throughout the plastics supply chain, from producer to product manufacturer and all stages in between.

 

Our Nurdle Map illustrates the extent of nurdle pollution globally, and between 13-22 March 2020 we are asking individuals, organisations and businesses to take part in The Great Global Nurdle Hunt.

 

Find out more:

 

[1] https://www.plasticseurope.org/en/newsroom/news/operation-clean-sweepr-port-antwerp-activity-report-2019

[2] https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/the-problem.html#prob

[3] https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/2020/01/plastic-soup-foundation-takes-legal-action-against-structural-plastic-pollution/

[4] https://www.eunomia.co.uk/reports-tools/investigating-options-for-reducing-releases-in-the-aquatic-environment-of-microplastics-emitted-by-products/

[5] https://www.fidra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Fidra_SCS_Leaflet.pdf