Join the great Global Nurdle Hunt

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Nurdles are small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil (less than 5mm). Countless billion are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products, but many end up washing up on our shores.

Nurdles are tiny, persistent and potentially toxic. They are known to attract and concentrate chemical contaminants to their surface. Because of their size and colour, they can look like fish eggs, making them attractive to seabirds, fish and other marine life. But once ingested, they can get trapped in an animal’s stomach, causing ulceration which can be fatal.

Toxic chemicals can harm animals that ingest nurdles, and find their way into our foodchain too. It’s also thought that microplastics can change the characteristics of sand, such as its temperature and permeability, which can affect animals like sea turtles that incubate their eggs on beaches.

Nurdle pollution is a global problem. Billions of nurdles are transported around the world, and at every stage from pellet to product, spills occur. When not cleaned up properly, nurdles enter waterways and reach the ocean. It’s estimated that as many as 53 billion nurdles enter UK oceans every year – that’s 35 tankers full!

Big spills of nurdles also happen at sea when ships transporting them loose tanks due to bad weather or technical difficulties. In 2021, a ship spilt 1,680 tonnes of nurdles off the coast of Sri Lanka, in the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history, and the single largest nurdle pollution event the world has ever seen.

Once at sea or washed up on a beach, nurdles are almost impossible to clean up. The most effective solution is to tackle the problem at source and stop them from spilling into the environment, by working with industry to find practical solutuons around making, transporting and using nurdles with care. Spill kits, staff training and drain filters can all help reduce the amount of nurdles that become plastic pollution.

Since 2015, the Great Nurdle Hunt (organised by environmental charity Fidra) has called on people around the world to take part in their campaign and call for change. By collecting crowd sourced data about the number of nurdles found on beaches, the campaign has created a map as a way of evidencing the scale of the problem. This has helped apply pressure to decision makers, politicians and industry.

How to take part

You can take part and help create change. Whenever you’re at the beach, or on a riverbank, you can search for nurdles. (Remember to check tide times and make sure it’s a safe place to search).

All you need to do is count how many nurdles you see at your chosen location.

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Remember that nurdles absorb toxic chemicals, so it’s best to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after touching any beach debris. A pair of tweezers and a sieve can also make searching easier!

Nurdles can’t be recycled, so it’s best to put them into a solid container to throw them away afterwards.

Log your findings with The Great Nurdle Hunt and help contribute to putting an end to microplastic pollution!

You’ll find more guidance on what to look for, how to log your findings, and what to do with the nurdles you find, on The Great Nurdle Hunt website.

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