This year, we teamed up with Nurdle Patrol – a citizen science project collecting information on nurdle pollution across the USA - to share data from their side of the pond.

 

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Have you seen our nurdle map lately? Thanks to nurdle hunters across the world, it’s looking more and more colourful every day. From Scotland to South Georgia, people have been heading to beaches, estuaries, and riverbanks to search for nurdles and have been submitting their data online. In May, we added Nurdle Patrols'HUGE data set to our nurdle map. Over 3000 Nurdle Patrol data points are now available to see, bringing the total nurdle hunts on our map to more than 5400!

Check out this guest blog by Arya D, a volunteer with Nurdle Patrol, on where it all started, how far they have come and their plans for the future!

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In September of 2018, a massive nurdle spill occurred in Corpus Christi, Texas, and reserve director Jace Tunnell found that it had washed millions of nurdles ashore on nearby Padre Island. This event, affecting this stretch of beach along the Gulf Coast, was just one example of a massive global problem.

The raw material of the plastic industry, plastic pellets are consistently found washing up on beaches on coastlines across the world. Spilled or dumped by companies that handle these plastic pellets they can leak into the environment. Spills can occur at every part of the supply chain, from production to transport. Once there, these pellets can adsorb toxic contaminants and can be eaten by marine animals who mistake them for food; causing problems for their survival.

Oftentimes, environmental regulatory agencies have trouble tracking pellet pollution. In this case in Corpus Christi, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s environmental agency, was not able to monitor the spill. So, in November, volunteers from the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute came together to help. They monitored a 30 mile long stretch of shore, which was polluted with 300,000 to 1 million nurdles every mile, and measured pellet concentrations in a standard half-meter quadrant. The Nurdle Patrol Facebook page was created in order for volunteers to share their findings. 300 people had joined the page by the first week, and it soon had citizen scientists and non-profits from every state, eager to sample their local beaches to determine the breadth of this pollution issue.

 

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And so Nurdle Patrol began. In the first month, a new methodology, based on that of The Great Nurdle Hunt, was created to make the process more scientific and allow for comparisons between different sites. Rules were established for nurdle surveys, such as timing the survey for 10 minutes, collecting only by hand, and identifying whether the sampling was done at the old or new tide line.

Now, citizen scientists input their location, date, and nurdle count on www.NurdlePatrol.org, with data spanning from Brazil to Alaska, so it can be mapped on the website and used to determine how long pellets stay at different sites and where they are moving. Tunnell states that Nurdle Patrol has found that the highest concentrations occur in areas near manufacturing plants. All the data informs state environmental agencies of concentrations and sources of pellet loss, allowing them to address the pollution problem through policies and regulations.

“The more data we have, the more problems we are seeing, and the bigger change we can make at the state and federal level to prevent pellets from getting into the environment,” Tunnell says. Nurdle Patrol has currently had over 2,000 citizen scientists send in data, as well as 28 partners that help lead Nurdle Patrol programs around the United States and Mexico. Within the United States, the Nurdle Patrol is working on expanding inland to sites such as the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, and to both the east and west coasts, to investigate how far the nurdle pollution is travelling.

 Arya D

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We are delighted to announce that, as of 2020, Nurdle Patrol data will now be added to The Great Nurdle Hunt’s global nurdle map.

This sharing of data supports work being done at local, national and international scales on addressing pellet pollution at source; such as  developing a supply chain approach to tackle pellet loss (check out our briefing for more information). By compiling data, organisations can use The Great Nurdle Hunt  map as an evidence hub to illustrate to their governments and industry that industrial pellet pollution is widespread and requires immediate action to stop the leakage of these pellets.

To find out more about the work being undertaken by Fidra and The Great Nurdle Hunt head to www.nurdlehunt.org.uk

To find out and take part in the Nurdle Patrol in the U.S.A. visit www.nurdlepatrol.org

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