Nurdles are a raw material about the size of a lentil that are melted to form almost all plastic products. Thanks to poor handling, these tiny pellets enter the environment and get embedded in estuarine and coastal habitats. They even often get mistaken for food because they look like floating fish eggs and crustaceans.
East Lothian residents who live near the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland are trying to learn more about the damage these nurdles cause, and help alleviate some of the pollution.
Environmental NGO Fidra has launched The Great Nurdle Hunt to help reduce the industrial pellet pollution while also monitoring and raising awareness about the problem amongst the community.
"The Great Nurdle Hunt is a way of finding out the extent of the nurdle problem on beaches around the Forth, and which beaches are most affected by this form of pollution," Cathy Sexton, the initiative's lead, told Phys Org. "We have set up a website (www.nurdlehunt.org.uk) which explains what to look for and how to do your own nurdle hunt safely, and you can use the website to share your findings and check out our interactive map to see what other people have discovered. Nurdle hunting is really addictive, anyone can do it, and you really will be contributing to our collective efforts to document and reduce nurdle pollution in the Forth."
Sexton adds that nurdles have been a topic of concern for marine scientists, who want to know more about their impact of sea life and the food chain as a whole.
"These bits of plastic can attract and concentrate persistent toxic pollutants found in seawater, and we know that nurdles collected on beaches along the Forth show high levels of these toxins," she said. "We are particularly worried because the Forth is also recognised as an internationally-important home to many animals and seabirds that are known to mistake nurdles for food. If eaten, plastic and the toxins coating them enter the food chain. Sadly post mortems on gulls, fulmars, terns and puffins have found nurdles in their stomachs."
You can participate and join The Great Nurdle Hunt by heading here.