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The results are in: Plastic nurdles have been found all over the world

The Great Nurdle Hunt is over, and with more than 200 nurdle hunts worldwide, the report concludes that 9 out of 10 beaches surveyed were polluted with plastic nurdles.

From 10-23rd March The Great Nurdle Hunt took place across 7 continents and in 28 countries. 225 nurdle hunts were held, and the newly released report states that nurdles were found in 87% of the locations. A European report also shows that plastic nurdles is the second largest source of microplastic pollution in nature with 230.000 tonnes annually.

Nurdles are small plastic ‘bullets’, also known as ‘pellets’ or ‘beads’, that are used to manufacture almost all kinds of plastic products.

plastik forurening i Danmark - Plastic Change
Pellet waste in the supply chain. Source: The Great Nurdle Hunt

But how do these nurdles end up in nature long before they are even processed into plastic products?

The graphic above shows how industries waste nurdles during manufacturing, during transit and transportation, during reloading, during plastic production, and during recycling processes. For example, the fact that nurdles were found along 9 out 10 beaches surveyed is clear sign of spills at sea during the shipping process.

Read also: Danish plastic manufacturers waste plastic in nature

The Great Nurdle Hunt, which has been an annual activity since 2012, helps to prove that nurdle pollution is global problem, and that we need widespread awareness and responsibility from the industry to prevent it at the source. We need to move away from solely looking at plastic pollution as a consumer issue and recognize how much waste comes from the industry – and thus ends up in nature long before plastic products hit the store shelves.

Read the full report

Lack of incentives maintains the status quo

In 2019, Plastic Change co-authored a report from the global movement, Break Free From Plastic, stating that the EU has not yet made any significant regulatory actions to minimize nurdle loss. The industry has neither financial nor repetitional incentives to prevent nurdle loss and therefore large-scale nurdle pollution continues to happen. As part of the steering committee of Break Free From Plastic, Plastic Change is pushing for the EU to take the necessary steps to prevent nurdle pollution at the source.