The night of 1 to 2 January 2019 saw the biggest ‘breakthrough’ in the nurdle story in the Netherlands. Prior to this, only the plastics industry and the environmental movement knew what nurdles were. On this night though, nurdles pollution became a well-known phenomenon for many people in the Netherlands.
Infamous, through definitely not appreciated, this eventful night was the night that the container ship MSC Zoe lost 300 containers in the northern Wadden Sea. Some of these containers were filled with nurdles. According to the University of Groningen, at least 24 million plastic granules washed up on the Dutch coast, mostly on the beaches of the island of Schiermonnikoog.
Rijkswaterstaat (the executive arm of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) calculated that MSC Zoe did not only lose 600 kilos of polyethylene nurdles – floating plastic granules that wash onto land after a while – but also lost 10,000 kilos of polystyrene nurdles. These granules are denser so do not float but instead sink and are now lying on the seabed of the North Sea.
Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment has commissioned a study into the ecological effects of the MSC Zoe disaster. The nurdles are virtually impossible to clean up and will remain in the sea, on the beach and in the dunes forever. She pledged to the House of Representatives that the final report would be ready in October 2020, but that deadline has now passed.