Nurdles: they sound cute, they’re anything but 

Photo: Alex Hofford

Science is continually discovering the extent of the damage microplastics wreak on our planet and especially the world’s oceans. These tiny (sometimes even microscopic) plastic fragments can become so small that they are absorbed by all sorts of marine organisms–from coral to the fish we eventually end up eating. While a lot of microplastic is a result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down, evidence shows that the second-largest source of marine plastic comes from nurdles. Nurdles, as Bloomberg explained, are tiny pellets of plastic resin no bigger than a pencil eraser that manufacturers use to transform into nearly all the plastic products we come into contact with. Because of spills and mishandling of nurdles by the industry they are small enough to blow away and migrate into waterways. 

Now, shareholder advocacy group As You Sow has filed resolutions with Chevron Corp., DowDupont Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Phillips 66 asking them to disclose how many nurdles escape their production process each year, and how effectively they’re addressing the issue. As justification, the group cites estimates of high financial and environmental costs associated with plastic pollution, and recent international efforts to address it. These include a United Nations conference in Nairobi and a U.S. law banning micro-plastics used in cosmetics.

Why This Matters: Currently there’s no practical way to get nurdles out of the ocean, the only thing we’re able to do with available technology is to stop them from entering the environment. There is an immense urgency to act because microplastics are not only polluting our oceans but they’re getting into our food, water, and even in our poop (sorry to say!) and we’re still discovering just how these tiny particles made of toxic petrochemicals are affecting our health. We have to get our plastic addiction under control but we must aslo force industries to be responsible for the nurdles that they’re releasing into the environment. Incidentally, our best chance yet to do something about the global microplastic epidemic may be coming from concerned students from Hawaii to Ireland!

 

 

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