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Record number of plastic nurdles on beaches as groups call for tougher laws

There are more nurdles on beaches than ever before. Environmental groups have called for legislation to make them marine pollutants. This will ensure that they are subject to stricter handling regulations.

The smallest pellets of plastic used in industry to make almost all of the plastic products we use, but many of them escape from factories and cargo spillages and end up in our environment.

They can cause severe damage to wildlife and may absorb chemical pollutants that can then be released into the environment.

FIDRA, an environmental charity, conducted the Great Global Nurdle Hunt this year, which saw a record number if nurdles found on beaches all over the globe.

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Hunts were held in 317 locations in 23 countries, and in 90% of these locations. In Indonesia, the only country without any nurdles was found.

Limekilns is a 17-mile radius from Edinburgh and one of the most affected areas in the UK. It’s easy to spot nurdles along the shore.

Sky News spoke with Joanna McFarlane as chair of CLP Nature Conservation Group. She said: “What are we dealing with? Historical nurdle loss. I would say there have been many nurdles here for decades. They’re either being washed up from the bottom of Firth of Forth, being deposited or just sitting in the bank.

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Image Joanna McFarlane believes that many of the Limekilns shore nurdles have been around for many decades

“Sometimes, you can take away the sandbank and the nurdles are only making up half the sandbank.

“The question is: Who is responsible for those Nurdles? Why hasn’t anyone been held accountable for the Nurdles that pollute our beaches and communities right now?”

“We want the truth to be known about the pollution that is affecting our beaches every day. It is being inhaled by wildlife and children, so is anyone going to hold them accountable?

The environment is being harmed by nurdles.

It is believed that between 50 and 75 billion Nurdles were lost in the ocean after a fire broke out on a ship off Sri Lanka’s coast in 2021. This was the worst accidental spillage in history.

Image Megan Kirton states that nurdles can be almost impossible to remove so it is important to take preventative action

Megan Kirton is a project officer at FIDRA and told Sky News that, “Aside from looking unattractive on beaches and covering them in plastic, unfortunately, a lot marine animals mistake a lot if nurdles for food.”

“It has been proven that nurdles are easily mistakenly eaten by animals such as baby turtles, fish, dolphins, and fish.”

She stated that animals feel satisfied when they eat nurdles, and don’t eat proper food.

Ms. Kirton said, “Once nurdles have entered the environment they are almost impossible to clean up so it is important to take preventative action to prevent them from ever getting there.”

FIDRA has joined forces with Fauna and Flora International in urging the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to adopt legislation that would formally classify nurdles among marine pollutants.

This would alter the way they are transported and handled.

Image Tanya Cox would like nurdles to become marine pollutants and be packaged more strictly

Tanya Cox is a senior technical specialist at Fauna and Flora International and stated that they should be recognized as pollutants because of their “pervasive pollution nature”.

“At this time pellets cannot be classified for sea movement,” stated Ms. Cox.

“We need to see nurdles formally classified as marine pollutants so that they’re packaged more stringently and labelled more clearly. The presence of pellets on ships should also be communicated to operators in order to allow them to be stored below deck in a safer and more appropriate manner.

“If it isn’t happening, it’s a matter of saying that time is running out.”

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