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HISTORY OF PASTIC PELLETS OR WHAT WE CALL “NURDLES “

Plastic Pellets have their stage of their lifecycle: from production, to transportation and during final product manufacturing. And billions of them are swept into waterways, adding to harmful levels of plastic pollution in the environment.

For some plastic pellets that people never knew were these came from, it is often unclear who is responsible when pollution crosses international borders. Given this example, a storm caused containers filled with roughly 54 tons of nurdles to fall from a ship in Durban, South Africa. By the time the South African authorities began their cleanup attempts; the nurdles had already begun making their way to Australia, and were estimated to arrive about 450 days after the spill, and that’s just one of the beginnings of spreading of Plastic pellets all over the world if not prevented.

At some point, nurdles can be lost at any point during the production and shipping stages. The produced pellets are subsequently transported from the production site, with train, truck and/or ship to the facility where the final product is being molded or extruded from the virgin material but they tend to kind of ping everywhere and get blown easily by the wind. If they’re not very well managed, then they can easily lead to leaks into the environment.

The first scientific reports to document the occurrence of plastic pellets in the environment were published during the 1970’s. Since then plastic pellets have been found in surface water samples and on beaches all over the world.

One example of the spread of plastic pellets was last July 2012 when heavy winds swept through Hong Kong during a storm. The particles, known as “nurdles,” spread through the water around Hong Kong and blanketed the shore. Researchers were worried that marine animals would be mistaken those particles for food sources like fish eggs because scientists have found nurdles in the digestive tracts of birds and fishes though they’re still working to determine the health risks for the animals. That’s why the government warned people to wash their fish thoroughly in case the animals that they have been caught or bought had ingested the particles.

And last 2018, thousands of pounds of nurdles wound up in a stream in Pennsylvania after a semi-truck that was carrying them crashed along a highway. The following year, piles of nurdles washed up on Sullivan’s Island beach near Charleston, South Carolina. And those just were one of the areas who were affected by the plastic pollution.

Constant concentration of pellets; gives 70,000 pellets/day. Rain assumption, pellet spills between rainfalls; 8200 pellets/day. Constant concentration of pellets in the creek, i.e. the measurement is representative of a continuous release; 98,000 pellets/day. Although daily variations may be large, these different assumptions would correspond to an annual release between a minimum of 3 million and a worst case scenario of 36 million pellets. The total weight of the pellets in the sample was 99.28 g resulting in an average weight of 0.02 g/pellet.