Plastic resin pellet pollution

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A handful of nurdles, spilled from a train in Pineville, Louisiana, in the United States

Plastic resin pellet pollution is a type of marine debris originating from plastic particles utilized in manufacturing large-scale plastics. These pre-production plastic pellets are created separately from the user plastics they are melted down to form, and pellet loss is incurred during both the manufacturing and transport stages.[1] Commonly referred to as nurdles, these plastics are released into the open environment, creating pollution in the oceans and on beaches.[2]

Description[edit]

Plastic resin pellets are classified as primary source microplastics, meaning that they were intentionally produced at the size ranging from 1–5 mm in diameter.[3] Approximately 60 billion pounds (27 million tonnes) of nurdles are manufactured annually in the United States.[4] One pound of pelletized HDPE contains approximately 25,000 nurdles (approximately 20 mg per nurdle). They are typically under 5 mm (0.20 in) in diameter.[5]

Environmental impact[edit]

Nurdles on a beach in southwest France, 2011.

Nurdles are a major contributor to marine debris. During a three-month study of Orange County beaches researchers found them to be the most common beach contaminant.[6] Nurdles comprised roughly 98% of the beach debris collected in a 2001 Orange County study.[7] Waterborne nurdles may either be a raw material of plastic production, or from larger chunks of plastics.[8] A major concentration of plastic may be the Great Pacific garbage patch, a growing collection of marine debris known for its high concentrations of plastic litter.

Nurdles that escape from the plastic production process into waterways or oceans have become a significant source of ocean and beach plastic pollution. Plastic pellet pollution that has been monitored in studies is mainly found in the sediments and beach areas and is usually polyethylene or polypropylene, the two main plastic polymers found in microplastic pollution.[9] Marine life is severely threatened by these small pieces of plastic; the creatures that make up the base of the marine food chain, such as krill, are prematurely dying by choking on nurdles.[10]

Nurdles have frequently been found in the digestive tracts of various marine creatures, causing physiological damage by leaching plasticizers such as phthalates. Nurdles can carry two types of micropollutants in the marine environment: native plastic additives and hydrophobic pollutants absorbed from seawater. For example, concentrations of PCBs and DDE on nurdles collected from Japanese coastal waters were found to be up to 1 million times higher than the levels detected in surrounding seawater.[11]

Plastic microbeads used in cosmetic exfoliating products are also found in water.

Incidents[edit]

2018

USA - Pennsylvania - Semi-truck crash leading to release of nurdles into Pocono Creek, with a picture of the nurdles in Spring Run (The Morning Call, 9 April 2018).

2017

South Africa - Durban - Nurdle spill leading to extended cleanup efforts. An overview of the response can be found here (http://www.coastkzn.co.za/nurdles)

UK - "The Great Nurdle Hunt" occurring from June 2-5th, 2017 - across the United Kingdom drew attention to the issue of plastic pellet pollution. A program started by Fidra, a Scottish environmental charity, sourced information on nurdles from citizens across the region using shared photos to better understand the makeup of pollution across beaches in the UK.[12] The nurdle hunts occurring earlier in 2017 determined that 73% of UK beaches had nurdle pollution.[13]

2012

USA - San Francisco Bay Coastal Cleanup from multiple nurdle spills (https://baynature.org/article/tiny-plastics-have-become-big-problem-in-coastal-cleanup/)

In Hong Kong, after being blown by Typhoon Vicente on 24 July 2012, some containers belonging to Chinese oil giant Sinopec which were carrying over 150 tonnes of plastic pellets were blown into the sea, washing up on southern Hong Kong coasts, such as Shek O, Cheung Chau, Ma Wan and Lamma Island. The spill disrupted marine life and is being credited with killing stocks of fish on fish farms.[14]

Current progress and solutions[edit]

The plastic industry has responded to the increased interest and concern for plastic pellet loss and pollution sources. Operation Clean Sweep was created by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association in 2001 and joined by the American Chemistry Council with the goal of zero pellet loss for plastic manufacturers.[15] This voluntary stewardship program provides its members with a manual which guides them through ways in which they can reduce pellet loss within their own facilities and provides the necessary training.[16]

Actions for creating awareness[edit]

On April 11, 2013 in order to create awareness, artist Maria Cristina Finucci founded The Garbage Patch State at UNESCO[17] –Paris in front of Director General Irina Bokova. First of a series of events under the patronage of UNESCO and of Italian Ministry of the Environment.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What's resin pellet? :: International Pellet Watch". www.pelletwatch.org. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  2. ^ Hammer, Jort; Kraak, Michiel H. S.; Parsons, John R. (2012). Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Springer, New York, NY. pp. 1–44. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-3414-6_1. ISBN 9781461434139.
  3. ^ GESAMP (2015). “Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: a global assessment” (Kershaw, P. J., ed.). (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/UNIDO/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP/UNDP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). Rep. Stud. GESAMP No. 90, 96 p.
  4. ^ "Heal the Bay - The Pacific Protection Initiative - AB 258: Nurdles". 20 April 2008. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008.
  5. ^ "What's a nurdle?". 7 November 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-12-21. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
  6. ^ Moore, Charles (2002). "A comparison of neustonic plastic and zooplankton abundance in southern California's coastal waters and elsewhere in the North Pacific". Algalita Marine Research Foundation.
  7. ^ "Adopted Marine Debris Resolution"
  8. ^ Ayre, Maggie (7 December 2006). "Plastics 'poisoning world's seas'". BBC Online. BBC News.
  9. ^ GESAMP (2015). “Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: a global assessment” (Kershaw, P. J., ed.). (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/UNIDO/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP/UNDP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). Rep. Stud. GESAMP No. 90, 96 p.
  10. ^ Weisman, Alan (July 10, 2007). "9". The World Without Us. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 978-0-312-34729-1.
  11. ^ Mato Y: "Plastic resin pellets as a transport medium for toxic chemicals in the marine environment", "Environmental Science & Technology" 35(2), pages 318–324, 2001
  12. ^ "The Great European Nurdle Hunt" (PDF). Nurdle Free Oceans. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  13. ^ Association, Press (2017-02-17). "Tiny plastic pellets found on 73% of UK beaches". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  14. ^ "Sinopec pledges help to clear Hong Kong plastic spill". 9 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  15. ^ "Operation Clean Sweep Celebrates 25 Years | In The Hopper: SPI's Business Blog". In The Hopper: SPI's Business Blog. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  16. ^ "OCS Program Manual - Operation Clean Sweep". Operation Clean Sweep. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  17. ^ "The garbage patch territory turns into a new state - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". unesco.org.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-03. Retrieved 2014-11-03.

Further reading[edit]