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Nurdles. They. Are. Everywhere.

Every plastic product we use is made of small 5mm plastic pellets (the size of a lentil) called nurdles, which are melted and moulded into all the plastic we see around us today. Nurdles are a type of microplastic that does not biodegrade.

The 4-step Process
  1. Produced in factories around the world

  2. Transported to plastic manufacturing plants all across the globe

  3. Melted

  4. Moulded into different objects

During their production, transportation, and manufacturing process, nurdles are often spilled into nature or waterways due to them being lightweight and small in size. Most of them also float, so when spilled into the sea, they can travel a long way. In the UK, it is estimated that over 53 billion pellets may enter the oceans every year, across Europe that number rises to 78.000 tonnes. Globally, statistics show that over 230.000 tonnes of nurdles pollute the oceans annually. This is not surprising as most objects around us are made of plastic. Some nurdles are spilled directly into the sea during storms while others are lost when spills on land are not cleaned up properly.

This problem has a big impact on wildlife, especially marine animals that mistake nurdles for fish eggs and other food. Nurdles cannot be digested, so they become trapped in an animal’s stomach, making it feel full and causing it to eventually die of starvation. Toxic chemicals from nurdles damage the health of the animals that eat them, so toxins from microplastics enter the food chain. If you eat fish, think about how much of the fish you eat may have ingested microplastics, and where these microplastics might be right now.

On the 25th of May 2021, the X-press Pearl, a chemical-laden cargo ship, experienced an explosion in Colombo,Sri Lanka, causing 1680 tonnes of nurdles to spill off the coast of Sri Lanka. This is the largest nurdle pollution event in the world and is probably the prequel to many more.

Many organisations and governments are calling the International Maritime Organisation to implement good practice by all companies handling plastic pellets.


So far, nurdle pollution is still a hidden problem. Fidra, a Scottish registered charity, takes the lead in contributing to finding solutions. They work with policy makers towards a supply chain accreditation approach, where companies across the full plastics supply chain must adhere to standards and certifications to prove they are handling pellets responsibly.

Fidra also run The Great Nurdle Hunt (going ahead this year from 19th September) where they raise awareness and generate evidence of the grand scale of plastic pellet pollution. Anyone across the world can take part in the project. You can map any nurdles you see along any coastline on their website. Wherever you are, you can map a picture of them here.

Since plastic production has come to stay, industries must stop pellet loss through better handling, stronger packaging and safer storing of nurdles on cargo ships. This is a preventable problem, let’s stop adding fuel to the fire.


For more information contact:

To take action about Nurdles, register now for:

The Great Nurdle Hunt 19th September 2022 - 17th October 2022

Reference videos: Background: Fauna & Flora International; Title: Kim Preshoff (TED talk)

Infographic- Fidra

Image: nilantha-ilangamuwa-QwpjI5dJs-s-unsplash


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