More than a thousand people are set to take part in worldwide search for tiny plastic pellets in the first Great Global Nurdle Hunt, spanning 6 continents.

This Friday 8th February environmental charity Fidra launches the first  Great Global Nurdle Hunt, an international beach survey to illustrate the global extent of a little-known form of microplastic pollution, nurdles. Anyone can take part by searching for nurdles (plastic pellets) on their local beach between 8th – 17th February and logging their nurdles finds at . So far 160 individual nurdle hunts are due to take place in 16 countries with support from over 60 organisations as part of this worldwide data collection event.




Nurdles are small plastic pellets, melted down to make almost all our plastic products – they are easily spilled and can be lost to the environment if not handled carefully. Once in the environment they are hard to remove and can adsorb toxins present in the water. Easily mistaken for food by many animals, nurdles and their toxins can enter the food chain.


Nurdle hunts

In 2017, over 600 volunteers from across the UK found pellets littering 73% of the beaches they searched[1].

Last year, volunteers on a nurdle hunt removed 450,000 plastic pellets from just one 20m stretch of beach in Scotland[2]. That’s equivalent to around 800 plastic bottles.  


Jasper Hamlet, Fidra explains ‘’Going on a nurdle hunt is easy. Sadly there are nurdles on most of the beaches surveyed so far. These plastic pellets are only the size of a lentil, but if you look on the tideline of a sandy beach you’ll often find them in large numbers.’’ 


This year, The Great Nurdle Hunt goes global showing pellet pollution both nationally and internationally. Between 8th – 17th February Fidra are inviting people to take part in The Great Global Nurdle Hunt, collating data on pellet pollution worldwide. 

Jasper Hamlet, Fidra explains ‘’Data from the Great Global Nurdle Hunt demonstrates to governments and the global plastic industry the scale of the plastic pellet pollution problem. We need to make sure pellets are handled responsibly by plastic pellet producers, by transport companies and by businesses using pellets to make plastic products. Action is needed throughout the supply chain by those handling nurdles to stop this form of microplastic pollution.’’  


In the UK, 2019 is the Year of Green Action[3] and Fidra are calling for more people across the world to take part in Nurdle Hunts and help collect valuable data.


On 30th January, The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) released proposals to regulate intentionally added microplastic particles used in over 9 sectors from Construction to Cosmetics[4]. This is a step in the right direction, however, there is another little known and even greater microplastic pollution problem that isn’t being regulated – Nurdles (also known as pre-production plastic pellets).

It has been estimated that 53 billion pellets could be lost annually from the UK alone with the amount totalling around 230,000 tonnes lost worldwide[5] per year.


Pellets escape at various stages of industrial processes – when they are produced, when they are transported between sites, when they are manufactured into plastic products and during the recycling process.  Spills can happen within factories where pellets can be swept or washed down the drain, they may be lost when bags tear during transport or lost at sea when containers are unsecured. Some parts of the plastics industry have been implementing best practice measures to prevent pellet loss, by voluntary sign up to the industry devised scheme, Operation Clean Sweep. However, uptake of this voluntary solution by industry has been low and the current system doesn’t have any checks in place to make sure it is applied effectively. 


Ahead of the Scottish Government’s International Marine Conference[6]  Fidra have put out a call to supporters, organisations and individuals across the globe to take part in The Great Global Nurdle Hunt and show that these pre-production pellets are reaching the environment, are posing a threat to wildlife and need to be handled responsibly.


Eric T. ARocha Kenya. 100 20 mins

Image credit: Eric Thuranira