Anyone for a nurdle hunt?

In my team at Kent Wildlife Trust are three marine biologists.  They are currently very concerned about the issue of plastic in oceans, sadly, with good reason.  If you thought we had done our bit for the environment by reducing our carrier bag use – and the good news on that at the moment is that the introduction of the 5p charge has reduced the number of single-use bags we use by 30million each week – the bad news is that there is still more to be done.

By the way, International Plastic Bag Free Day is 3rd July.  More info here – most plastic bags are used for a total of just 25 minutes!!  This may also be a good moment to remind you of the St Luke’s litter pick on Saturday 8th July:  Come along to church at 10am, bring your old gardening gloves, and help for as much or little time as you can spare until midday.

Now back to the marine environment – a new word currently being bandied around by my marine colleagues is ‘nurdles’.  So what are nurdles?  They are small plastic pellets which, when melted together, are used by industry to make nearly all our plastic products.  The lightweight nurdles can escape into the environment at various points during their manufacture, transport or use, spilling into rivers and oceans or getting into drains where they are washed out to sea.  It is thought that billions are lost in the UK each year. More information here

Nurdles pose a massive danger to marine wildlife.  Due to their size, they are easily mistaken for fish eggs and swallowed by a huge variety of marine wildlife from seabirds and fish to even crabs and lobsters.  If that isn’t bad enough, they soak up toxins from their surroundings which then accumulate in the tissues of the unsuspecting animals that eat them.  A similar thing happens with unnecessary plastic “microbeads” used in cosmetics and washed down our drains.  Please avoid products containing them & choose products containing natural exfoliants such as nut shells or sand, instead.

It also turns out that nurdles are found on most UK beaches, including many in Kent.

My marine colleagues have decided that enough is enough and are in the processes of organising a series of events through the Guardians of the Deep project, which they hope will help tackle this problem around the Kent coast.  Guardians of the Deep activities are listed here, keep an eye on it through the year as new events including nurdle hunting and beach cleans will be added: Guardians of the Deep – Upcoming Events.

If you’re going to the beach this summer and fancy doing your own nurdle hunt, the best place to start looking is amongst accumulations of small pieces of plastic above the tide line. Look for lentil-sized pieces of coloured plastic.  An old jam jar is ideal for collecting nurdles in.  However, please remember that nurdles absorb toxic pollutants from the ocean, so if you do want to collect them, please wear gloves or use a pair of tweezers.  Also remember to wash your hands with soap and water after handling any beach debris.  Please report your findings here.

Happy Nurdle Hunting Everyone!

Adapted with permission from an EcoChurch article for Wye Parish Magazine by A. Waite

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