Over 1000 volunteers across all 7 continent, find millions of plastic pellets washing up on beaches worldwide revealling global extent of industrial plastic pellet (or nurdle) pollution

Results from the Great Global Nurdle Hunt released this month reveal beaches across the globe are polluted with nurdles, the plastic pellets used to make nearly all plastic products. Volunteers in all 7 seven continents visited beaches, rivers and ports, to look for this microplastic pollution. Nearly 9 out of 10 hunts found nurdles, with 23% of hunts finding more than 1000 nurdles and millions estimated in many of the worst spots surveyed.

During ‘The Great Global Nurdle Hunt’, (held in March 2020) more than 1000 people in 28 countries, scoured beaches for these tiny microplastic pellets.

Organised by Fidra, this worldwide plastic pollution survey illustrates the ongoing, widespread pollution of our marine environments as a result of direct losses from the plastics industry.

Nurdles are lentil-sized plastic pellets, used as a raw material by manufacturers around the world to make new plastic products. Leaks can occur at all stages of the plastics supply chain, making them one of the largest sources of direct microplastic pollution to the environment. The Great Global Nurdle Hunt highlights this widespread pollution that takes place before plastic has even become a product.



Nurdles collected on the River Ythan, Scotland - Lauren S @SaltWaterLifeUK / The Great Nurdle Hunt


Jasper Hamlet, Senior Project Officer at Fidra who organises and runs The Great Nurdle Hunt said:

 ‘It is estimated that every year 230,000 tonnes of nurdles are lost to the environment from across the plastics industry, that’s 10 trillion pellets, or the equivalent of around 15 billion plastic bottles’

‘The results of The Great Global Nurdle Hunt show that more and more people are finding these nurdles washing up on their shores, regardless of how remote they might be. From Hong Kong to Hawaii, nurdles were found alarmingly frequently and often in huge numbers.  

During one nurdle hunt in Hong Kong, 25 volunteers joined Plastic Free Seas, an organisation supporting the event, and collected 11,557 nurdles in just under 2 hours.

Dana Winograd, Director at Plastic Free Seas said:

‘There was a pellet spill in 2012 in which 150 tonnes of pellets fell off of a ship into the ocean near Hong Kong during a typhoon. It is estimated that 102 tonnes were collected, and I am sure we are still picking up the lost pellets to this day. 

The Great Global Nurdle Hunt has also showcased the dedicated and focussed work of over 65 organisations, business and groups which work towards highlighting the ongoing and pervasive industrial plastic pellet (or nurdle) pollution.

Jasper Hamlet, Fidra said: ‘We are delighted to see so many individuals, groups and organisations take to their beaches to search for these tiny plastic pellets. It clearly shows that people across the world care about this issue and are demanding that more is done stop plastic pellet pollution it.



Nurdle hunters taking part in the #GreatGlobalNurdleHunt in Hong Kong - Dana W / Plastic Free Seas


Dana Winograd, Plastic Free Seas said:

‘The Great Nurdle Hunt was a fantastic opportunity for us to raise awareness of the issue of plastic marine pollution in general. It is easy to link the excessive amount of pellets in the environment to the unnecessary single-use plastic we use in our everyday lives, so it is a great tool for behaviour change. Consumer behaviour is only one part. Producers need to take responsibility for this problem too’


Fidra and other NGOs internationally are pushing for increased transparency and accountability across the plastics industry, with external checks on best practices where pellets are handled. Certification schemes can be used internationally to verify pellets are being contained and should reach across the whole plastics supply chain. Fidra is supporting work to develop such systems, from trialling solutions with the Scottish government and industry close to home, to raising awareness with EU decision-makers and global trade associations.

Jasper Hamlet, Fidra said: This is a global problem that needs globally co-ordinated solutions. We are calling for industry to take responsibility of the pellets they handle. Effective measures to stop the loss of these pellets are needed at all stages of the supply chain. With plastic production and consumption growing worldwide, it is essential that global plastics supply chains are not leaking pellets into the environment and evidence from The Great Global Nurdle Hunt is vital to holding industry to account.’


Remeber, you can take part in this ongoing citizen science surve anywhere, anytime. Add your voice and data to our pellet pollution map:

Submit your finds here

Read the report here.