A large part of the British coastline is polluted with plastic pellets, small grains that are used in the production of plastic products. This was reported in a survey in The Great Nurdle Hunt, an initiative that found pellets on 203 (73%) of the 279 tested beaches in the United Kingdom.
Pellets, or nurdles, are transported over vast distances and always end up in the environment. An extreme number of pellets were found on the beaches of Cornwall: 127,500 pellets on only 100 metres of beach. The Gulf Stream, that flows off Cornwall’s coast, brings plenty of plastic rubbish to Cornwall’s beaches. Last year, thousands of pink Vanish detergent containers washed up and up to today, LEGO, that was spilled by a container that fell off a vessel 19 years ago, can still be found.
A recent Eunomia study into the loss of pellets in Great Britain showed that an estimated 105 to 1,054 tonnes – or between 5 and 53 million pellets – are ‘lost’ every year. In other words, they enter the environment. About 230 million tons of pellets enter the environment in Europe every year.
By integrating prevention in the Ocean Clean Sweep, the initiative that industry is already taking to avoid pellet spills, member companies can be held responsible for each pellet spill. The Plastic Soup Foundation recommends this being made mandatory in environmental licencing and in chain liability so that the loss of pellets can be monitored.