Rotterdam, Limburg and Antwerp
Plastic Soup Foundation has long called for all types of plastic pollution to be tackled at source. This especially applies to nurdles as once they are in the environment, it is virtually impossible to clear them up, let alone if they have already found their way into rivers, seas or oceans. The heavier types of nurdle will never wash up but will sink and disappear into sandy seabeds and muddy riverbeds.
That the problem of plastic granules is also a big problem in rivers in the Netherlands was clearly shown by Plastic Soup Foundation research along the Western Scheldt River in 2015. The research was carried out in collaboration with Fauna Flora International, a British organisation, and later in the Dutch Schone Rivieren (clean rivers) project. One of the conclusions in 2019, after two years of research, was that plastic pellets were found in almost half of the more than 200 test locations along the Meuse and Waal Rivers.
In the face of these results, Plastic Soup Foundation went looking specifically for nurdle pollution in the Netherlands and Belgium. In the second half of 2019 our researchers checked dozens of locations for the presence of these plastic granules, not only along various rivers and the Western Scheldt estuary, but also around the production sites of petrochemical factories and the large plastic producers at the Chemelot industrial site in the province of South Limburg, the Botlek industrial area of Rotterdam and the Port of Antwerp.
The conclusion was that all the factory grounds and the access roads of all the manufacturers – Sabic, INEOS, BASF, Borealis, Covestro and Ducor Petrochemicals – surveyed, as well as Katoen Natie, the largest Flemish distribution company, were heavily polluted with nurdles.
Depending on the site, this amounted to hundreds of thousands to millions of spilt plastic granules. Even randomly tested roadsides, harbours and embankments, far from the factories, had nurdles. In some places it looked like it had hailed heavily.