The pre production polymer pellets or Nurdles get spilled in production, in road transport and in shipping.
Each bulk truck can carry about 2 billion nurdles per load.
This is such a big problem that the industry itself has an initiative called operation clean sweep which publishes ‘best practice” to keep Nurdles out of the environment.
Operation clean sweep has been running for 25 years and yet if you Google Nurdles, or Nurdle Spills you will find pages upon pages of reports of spills, of volunteer clean up operations and of devastation to wildlife.
Many clean up specialist brought in for large spills state that a large Nurdle Spill is worse than an oil spill.
South Africa is grappling with an ecological disaster after billions of tiny plastic pellets spilled into the sea when a container fell from a ship in the port of Durban. This is the report on that disaster from Sky News in February, 2018.
One polymer compounding factory in Sweden stated :
“Our aim is to not lose a single pellet.”
However a study by the university of Gothenburg and published in Marine Pollution Bulletin estimated the total release of 5mm preproduction pellets (NURDLES) from this site into the surrounding environment is 36 million pellets annually. If fragments of pellets (down to 300 μm ) were counted there was an hourly runoff, of over 500,000 particles per hour released into the environment.
The same study showed that wherever there were compounding sites there were greater numbers of nurdles and fragments in the environment; and there were also spills around areas of subcontracted companies involved in transport, storage, cleaning and waste management.
A study in the river Rhine in 2015 showed that 60% of the identified plastic particles were 5 mm spherules (Nurdles) with a linkage to different industries along the river.
Although the actual levels that leach into the environment from the production plants are unknown a recent study in the UK indicates a national yearly loss of 5–53 billion pellets even when there are no major Nurdle spill reported anywhere.
The Irish EPA has looked at plastic pellets in freshwater streams and has listed molluscs, fish, crustaceans, amphibians and mammals that are at risk from micro-plastic pollution, and 13 different birds of conservation concern that are at risk of micro plastic pollution.
How does this plastic get into these freshwater streams and rivers?
Production spills into the storm drains and spills from transport.
In April 2018 a trailer turned over on a bend in the the road near Pocono creek which runs into the Delaware River in Philadelpia. 49,000 lbs of nurdles were spilled and local volunteers were left to do the clean up.
These are just some of the places where tipping over on a bend could be a risk between Skibbereen and Cork as these nurdles are shipped from Cork to Skibb and back on the N71.
Why is a factory so dependent on transporting such hazardous material located so far away from Cork Port?
Is this the best use of the last site owned by the IDA?
Is this the kind of traffic that should be brought through all the towns on the N71 and through the centre of Skibbereen?
Is this the kind of development that is sympathetic to the environment in West Cork and this stretch of The Wild Atlantic Way?
To learn more about Nurdles and the efforts being made in the UK to remove them from the seas around Scotland, check out this site – source for our cover image :
If you have never heard of Nurdles before now, why haven’t you when billions will be trucked daily from Cork Port on the N71 to the proposed Plastic Nurdle Factory on the Baltimore Road.