What on earth (or in the ocean) is a Nurdle?
Nurdles are small, plastic pellets, about the shape and size of a split lentil. Nurdles form the basic building block for any plastic material. They are readily transported in containers as a raw material either by ship or on trucks?
Quite commonly (in fact, way too often), due to storm damage or cracks in the transport container, millions (if not billions) of these little plastic critters spill out, polluting our oceans and piling up along the high-water line of our sandy beaches.
The perfect storm
The last devastating spill in South Africa happened during a massive storm in 2017. Two enormous cargos containers full of pellets fell into the KZN harbour rupturing billions of nurdles into the wild oceans. Many of these reached all the way up to Namibia and even as far afield as South West Australia!
As small as they are, nurdles are almost impossible to retrieve once in the ocean, and because plastic cannot breakdown, they never disappear! It is no surprise that the environmental impact of such a spill is akin to that of an oil spill. The consequential damage is certainly as severe 😢
How to spot a nurdle
Naturally, the pellets look exactly like food (particularly fish eggs) to many sea creatures and birds. However, being inedible and toxic, they cause digestive blockages, slowly releasing poisons and resulting in starvation and even death. What’s more, is that we eat the fish that eat the nurdles- so ultimately, we eat those nurdles too! One grandiose, toxic nurdle soup it is!
Another South African spill…
Sadly, South Africa has recently experienced another big, fat nurdle spill for which no one has, as yet, claimed any responsibility (funny that!?). Suddenly, nurdles are appearing everywhere, including all over False Bay (especially Fishhoek, Glencairn and Buffelsbay in Cape Point), the Atlantic beaches, Struisbaai, Natures Valley and Plettenberg Bay. Although the spill is suspected to be from cargo lost at sea off the Plettenberg Bay coastline, no one is letting on to who the culprit in question may be.
Thankfully, the past week has seen many awesome organisations and ocean-loving citizens banding together in an attempt to help clean up this royal mess. But the continuous flow of the ocean means an endless washing ashore of ever more nurdles. Sadly, we cannot save them all from the ever-hungry ocean tides.
What you can do to help
Please join us in a continued national effort to collect nurdles along your beach walks. With a bit of research into the type of pellets and the location, we can get a far better understanding of the extent of the damage and hopefully identify the culprit so that may hopefully be held accountable for this environmental crime. Collected nurdles will be recycled. Remember, every nurdle counts!
Check out this cool video on how to collect your nurdles
Drop off points are at Sharkspotters in Muizenberg or Fishhoek. Alternatively, you can visit Coast KZN to learn more about how to report your nurdle finds or Sea World to find the closest drop-off point near you.