As it’s such an impossible task, we don’t encourage our nurdle hunters to remove the nurdles, but still we often get asked the question; ‘What should I do with the nurdles I collect?’

Taking part in The Great Nurdle Hunt is fun and easy. More importantly, it enables valuable data to be collected and added to our online map. For over 5 years we have been asking people across the world to head to a beach or riverbank and hunt for nurdles, recording the time, location and number of nurdles found.

But if you do romve nurdles from a beach during your Nurdle Hunt, what should you do with them?

Here are our latest words of advice for 2020:

 

To collect or not collect?

Once in the environment, nurdles are almost impossible to remove. At the tiny size of around 2-5mm, it makes them very hard to spot let alone pick up. To give you an idea of scale, you can fit about 300 nurdles (weighing around 5 grams) in a tablespoon. So, if you come across a patch of nurdles or find them strewn in a high tide line, you are potentially looking at 100’s if not 1000’s along one beach. Collecting them up can feel like a mammoth task. We know it can be hard to resist though.

Importantly, please report how many nurdles you’ve seen, rather than the number you were able to collect.

 

Beachcombers be careful

If you do decide to collect up the nurdles you find, remember that studies have shown these pellets to adsorb toxic pollutants from the ocean, as well as being a potential home for pathogens that can make you ill. So, we recommend the use of gloves or a pair of tweezers. A sieve can come in handy too. Once your survey is over, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly.

 

Sharonglaas

 Photo Credit: Sharon Glass / The Great Nurdle Hunt

 

‘Not currently recycled’

Once collected however, you are left with a conundrum. What next? Currently, nurdles cannot be recycled in general recycling. These plastic pieces are the raw material of nearly all our plastic products, which means they are often different types of plastic. Recycling requires different plastics to be sorted, which makes these tiny microplastics difficult to recycle. Another spanner in the works, beached nurdles are often quite weathered and dirty making them even less suitable for recycling.

 

Too toxic for re-use

Like other sources of marine plastic pollution, nurdles adsorb a number of toxic biological and chemical contaminants in the water. Sometimes concentrating them to millions of times background levels. Plastic pellets can also contain harmful additives, added during the manufacturing process. Additives are the chemicals used to change the plastics properties. Over time, additives can leach out of nurdles particularly if the plastic has degraded in the environment. This makes nurdles problematic to reuse as there is a chance of exposure to harmful chemicals and contaminants.

 

10000 nurdles ref Tracey Williams  Newquay Beachcombing

Photo credit: Tracey Williams / Lego Lost at Sea

 

So, what can I do?

Luckily, we have a few options for you this year.

 

  • Put them on display

Our favourite use for these nurdles is to store them in a jar and use them to raise awareness – spreading the word about nurdles and The Great Nurdle Hunt is easiest when you have a good example!

 

  • Contribute to more science

Dr Hideshige Takada has been studying toxic chemicals associated with plastic pellets (nurdles) since 2005. He runs the International Pellet Watch, a global monitoring of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by using beached plastic resin pellets. You can send samples of your pellets to his laboratory to contribute to his work. Find out more here: http://www.pelletwatch.org/

 

  • Bottle and bin

If you decide to throw them away, sometimes the best option is to fill a plastic bottle with them as they are less likely to break than a bag, and therefore less likely to spill into the environment on the way to landfill. Not ideal, we know, but that's why we want to stop them entering our oceans in the first place. Otherwise a bag will probably do. 

 

  • Send to an artist! 

We sometimes get requests from artists for beached nurdles to use in sculptures or artworks to raise awareness. Check our social media feeds for the latest projects – here are two examples of artists that you can send your nurdles to:

 

Maarten Vanden Eynde

The Belgian artist Maarten Vanden Eynde has one solution! He is creating a growing artwork called ‘Check Mate’; where he will be collecting and placing plastic nurdles on (hopefully) each square of a chessboard. His art work is based on a 13th Century mathematical problem and every time he exhibits his work, his chess board grows exponentially.

In his own words, Maarten says; ‘The work ‘Check Mate’ visualizes the scale of the problem of plastic pollution and at the same time amplifies the worldwide effort to raise awareness and come up with solutions for this complex and multi layered global threat. Mirroring the global scale of the issue, the artwork ‘Check Mate’ is depending on global involvement of individuals or organisations to help collect nurdles.’ 

So, if you have a pile of nurdles you’ve recently collected and want to collaborate in the creation of this artwork, get in touch with Maarten Vanden Eynde This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can find more information about the artist and his other works using plastic debris at www.maartenvandeneynde.com or www.plasticreef.com

Valerie Martin

Another artist who is also keen to explore an artwork using collected and found nurdles is Valerie Martin. A Scottish based artist working from Stirling, Valerie usually works with recycled textiles and wood but is venturing into using recycled plastic.

Valerie said, “As 2020 is the Year of Coast & Waters, in Scotland, I am looking to help highlight the pollution to our seas and shoreline from waste plastic. This not only contaminates our seas and shores but puts our food chain at risk. I would like to repurpose the Nurdles from the Nurdle Hunts by incorporating them into an artwork. Depending on how many I receive this could be a larger 3D structure or a smaller 2D image depicting the phrase ‘you are what you eat’.”

To contact Valerie and find out more, you can explore her website www.valeriemartin.co.uk or send an email with the subject line ‘NURDLES’ to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.