What’s a nurdle?
Editor’s Note: During Plastic Free July, the Loggerhead Lowdown blog will focus on a variety of plastic-related issues and ways to be part of the solution. To learn more about the global Plastic Free July movement, go to Plasticfreejuly.org.
By Aubry Forsyth
Nurdles are small plastic pellets that are used to make nearly all the plastic items we use daily, and they are a major issue for our oceans. Billions of nurdles are manufactured every year to make larger products, such as plastic bags and bottles. Nurdles are typically 3-5 millimeters in length and are usually white or yellow, but colorful ones can be found as well. Nurdles currently pose many threats to our oceans and the creatures that live there.
Nurdles often end up in our waterways and oceans from accidental spillage and mishandling during manufacturing and transport. These small plastic particles may seem to be harmless at first, but they have some negative effects. Like other microplastics, nurdles can be mistaken as food by predators. Due to their small size and often yellow coloring, nurdles can look like fish eggs. Larger fish can in turn ingest the nurdles, and so they go up the food chain.
Plastic in our oceans can take hundreds of thousands of years to degrade, and when it does, it only breaks into smaller pieces. UV rays, oxygen, wind, and waves all contribute to breaking down plastic. Therefore, until plastic particles like nurdles are cleaned out of the water and off our beaches, they will remain in the environment.
Nurdles can also become toxic. Because they are made of plastic, nurdles can soak up toxins and pollutants from the water. Unfortunately, these toxins do not break down in the environment. This makes the small plastic particles extremely toxic to organisms that consume them.
You can help prevent plastic pollution. By reusing plastic containers and/or switching to alternatives like reusable containers, there will be less of a need to produce more plastic products. You can also go clean up a local beach and look for nurdles. Many agencies and organizations are trying to track nurdles, and you may report your findings. These reports help to determine how often nurdles are found on the beaches, and therefore how many are spilled each year. Every small effort contributes to a cleaner, more stable environment not just for our oceans’ inhabitants, but for humans as well.
To learn more about nurdles and what you can do to help, visit the Nurdle Patrol website.