Plastic pellets pollute 88% of countries surveyed during first Global Nurdle Hunt with over a thousand people taking part across all 7 continents.

Plastic pellets pollute 88% of countries surveyed during first Global Nurdle Hunt with over a thousand people taking part across all 7 continents.

 

The results are in...

 

 

Just over 2 weeks ago the Great Global Nurdle Hunt was concluded. The results are now in, and the problem is indeed global. 
The world’s first Great Global Nurdle Hunt, organised by environmental charity Fidra, revealed the global scale of plastic pellet (nurdle) pollution with nurdles found from the Galapagos to Galloway. A total of 352 nurdle hunts took place over 9 days (8th-17th February 2019), in 32 countries and across all 7 continents.  Plastic pellets were found on 84% of beaches surveyed and in all continents surveyed except Antarctica – demonstrating the need to address this issue and stop pellet loss at source.

 

Over 1200 people took part in a Great Global Nurdle Hunt involving more than 75 organisations, community groups and local businesses from across the globe. This equated to more than 1400 volunteers hours! 

 

Nurdle pollution was evident across 28 out of 32 countries surveyed from the Gulf of Mexico to Abu Dhabi, Ecuador to South Africa, with 84% of nurdle hunts finding some nurdles and over 40% of those hunts detected more than 100 pellets present. 12.5% of hunts found over 1000 nurdles. Not even the 'pristine wildlife haven' of the Galapagos Islands, home to the species observed by Charles Darwin in 1835 which formed the inspiration for his theory of evolution, escaped nurdle pollution. During a nurdle hunt on Tortuga Bay in The Galapagos Islands, more than 9000 plastic pellets were found. Whilst, closer to home millions of pellets were found on Ferrycraigs beach, North Queensferry, Scotland.

 

 

Jasper Hamlet, Fidra explains “The worldwide response to the Great Global Nurdle Hunt has been fantastic and it shows people really care about this issue. The valuable data collected by over 1200 people clearly illustrates the global extent of plastic pellet pollution, this evidence means the issue can no longer be ignored by governments or many in the plastics industry”.

 

María Esther Briz, Project Manager at Mingas Por El Mar who ran the nurdle hunt in The Galapagos says: “We are shocked and worried about the magnitude and global extent of the problem. The impact that nurdles have on the fauna of these islands is difficult to calculate but it is indisputable that remedying marine pollution, including plastic pellet pollution, is vital for the conservation of fragile ecosystems such as the Galapagos".

 

Maria E B Mingas Por El Mar tortuga bay Galapagos 3

(Image Credit:María Esther Briz, Mingas Por El Mar, Galapagos Islands).

 

Nurdles are easily and often spilled at plastic production sites, in transport and when nurdles are converted into products. It is estimated that 230,000 tonnes of nurdles can be lost to the oceans globally, every year. Some companies are already committed to stop pellet pollution from their sites, but to see an end to global nurdle pollution all companies handling pellets need to have effective best practice measures in place.

 

Jasper Hamlet explains: ‘’This is an avoidable form of plastic pollution. Nurdles are easily spilled but if those who use, produce and transport nurdles all put measures in place to limit spills and sweep up spilled nurdles up rather than washing them down the drain we can stop further pellet pollution. Some of the measures industry can take are as simple as using a dustpan and brush. ‘’

 

Madeleine Berg, project manager at Fidra, says: “This is an inherently global issue and needs a global solution – we’re calling for industry and government to work together nationally and internationally to take the lead on this issue.”

 

 

 

What are nurdles?

Nurdles are small plastic pellets that are produced and melted down to make almost all our plastic products.  It is estimated that 230,000 tonnes could be lost to the oceans globally[1], every year. Once in the environment they are hard to remove, and last for a long time. Nurdles contain a mixture of chemicals, can adsorb toxins present in the water and can be colonized by faecal indicator organisms (FIOs), such as Escherichia coli[2]. Easily mistaken for food by many animals, nurdles and their toxins can enter the food chain.

 

What is being done by industry?

Since its inception in 1991 Operation Clean Sweep has been the flagship programme designed by industry to reduce plastic pellet loss. Companies can commit to stopping pellet loss from their sites However in its current form this voluntary scheme has not been enough to keep wildlife and environments worldwide safe from plastic pellet pollution.

The plastics industry is inherently global and with predictions of global plastic production set to double by 2030, a global approach is needed to tackle pellet loss throughout the entire plastic supply chain from pellet production to product. Pellet pollution is the responsibility of those who use, produce and transport nurdles and is an entirely preventable form of pollution.

 

The solution?

Fidra are working in partnership with NGOs Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) to tackle nurdle pollution from industry at national and European levels.

Fidra, FFI and EIA are calling for a supply chain approach with pellet pollution addressed at all stages of pellet handling.  To ensure pellet containment is effective and the whole plastics industry take responsibility, Fidra, FFI and EIA are recommending external audits of the steps companies are taking to limit pellet loss with reporting and communication to increase transparency and accountability in the plastics industry.  

 

Governments are beginning to take note of this issue. The governments of the British Irish Council including Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands, discussed the pellet pollution problem at their Marine Litter Summit on Friday 22nd February 2019[3]. Ministers, from governments in across Britain and Ireland highlighted the need to further reduce plastic pellet loss with a transparent and auditable full supply chain approach. The Scottish government have set up a cross-stakeholder steering group to trial a process to achieving this supply chain approach.

 

Jasper Hamlet, Fidra explains “The fact that over 9000 nurdles were found from just one nurdle hunt on the remote Tortuga Bay in The Galapagos Islands clearly demonstrates that this issue is global and plastic pellet pollution impacts us all.  Urgent action is needed from governments and the global plastics industry to ensure pellets are handled responsibly throughout the plastic supply chain; from production, manufacture and recycling, to distribution and shipping. It is good to see evidence from our Nurdle Hunts informing inter-governmental discussions, we are looking forward to working together with governments to put commitments into action and putting an end to pellet pollution’’.

An updated map showing pellet pollution worldwide can be found at www.nurdlehunt.org.uk

 

Contact:

For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Tel: (+44) 01620 895677 / (+44) 07565286488

  

[1] Eunomia (2016) Marine Plastics: We Should Fight Them on the Beaches https://www.eunomia.co.uk/marine-plastics-we-should-fight-them-on-the-beaches/

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X19300116

[3] British Council Symposium on Marine Litter, communique available online https://www.britishirishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/BIC%20-%20Marine%20Litter%20Symposium%202019%20%20-%20Communique%20-%20Final.pdf


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