The Lost Nurdles Polluting Texas Beaches

Tiny plastic building blocks are spilled into oceans and waterways before they’re even made into plastic goods.

JULISSA TREVIÑOUNDARK

JUL 5, 2019

Last September, Jace Tunnell discovered a layer of tiny, round plastic pellets covering a beach on Padre Island off the southern coast of Texas. There were “millions of them,” he recalled, “and it went on for miles.” Tunnell, a marine biologist, knew exactly what the pellets were, but says he had never actually seen them before.

They’re called nurdles, and they’re the preproduction building blocks for nearly all plastic goods, from soft-drink bottles to oil pipelines. But as essential as they are for consumer products, nurdles that become lost during transit or manufacturing are also an environmental hazard. In the ocean and along coastal waterways, they absorb toxic chemicals and are often mistaken for food by animals. They also wash up by the millions on beaches, leaving coastal communities to deal with the ramifications.

Researchers say nurdles—which weigh a fraction of an ounce (approximately 20 milligrams each)—are found virtually everywhere. It is estimated that more than 250,000 tons enter the ocean annually. In February, Fidra, an environmental group based in Scotland, reported nurdle pollution in 28 of the 32 countries they surveyed, from Ecuador to South Africa.

“Pellets have been around and have been lost since plastic started to be produced,” says Madeleine Berg, a project manager for Fidra, which is working to reduce plastic waste and chemical pollution. And as plastic production continues to rise, researchers worry that the threat to beaches and coastal regions is growing worse.

Read Full Article at Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/07/plastic-pellets-nurdles-pollute-oceans/593317/

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