Nurdles: the worst toxic waste you’ve probably never heard of – the Guardian

Nurdles - plastic "gravel" (by Barbara Agnew CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr)


Billions of these tiny plastic pellets are floating in the ocean, causing as much damage as oil spills, yet they are still not classified as hazardous…

When the X-Press Pearl container ship caught fire and sank in the Indian Ocean in May, Sri Lanka was terrified that the vessel’s 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil would spill into the ocean, causing an environmental disaster for the country’s pristine coral reefs and fishing industry.

Classified by the UN as Sri Lanka’s “worst maritime disaster”, the biggest impact was not caused by the heavy fuel oil. Nor was it the hazardous chemicals on board, which included nitric acid, caustic soda and methanol. The most “significant” harm, according to the UN, came from the spillage of 87 containers full of lentil-sized plastic pellets: nurdles…

Plastic in the Depths: how pollution took over our oceans – The Guardian

Plastics are the most common form of marine debris. They can come from a variety of land- and ocean-based sources, enter the water in many ways, and impact the ocean and Great Lakes. Once in the water, plastic debris never fully biodegrades (illustration courtesy of NOAA).

By now, it is well known that the oceans swirl with plastic. More than 8m tonnes pour into the seas every year, spewed out via rivers, dumped along coastlines or abandoned by fishing vessels. Plastic even contaminates ocean air, where particles are kicked up by spray and then blown about the planet by the wind. In many places on Earth, it is literally raining – and snowing – plastic.