What are Nurdles?
A nurdle is a very small plastic pellet which serves as raw material in the manufacture of plastic products. Nurdles are mostly made from synthetic substances, some even derived from petrochemical products that give them high mouldability for the manufacture of familiar plastic products.
In the raw stage (pre-moulded and packaged) they are not toxic to touch, but probably shouldn’t be chewed given the unknown synthetics that make up the pellets. However, once released into the marine environment they have a high attraction to harmful substances such as land-based pesticides, herbicides, other organic pollutants as well as heavy metals that end up in the ocean. At this stage they are very harmful to life and should not be ingested.
Nurdles never disappear or disintegrate, they break down into smaller pieces and are harmful to animals which mistake them for food items. Not only are they toxic, but they cannot be digested, causing digestive blockages, starvation and death.
Nurdle Spill - 10 October 2017
A spillage occurred from a shipping container incident in Durban harbour, precipitated by the recent storm. It is estimated that approximately 49 tons of nurdles were lost at sea during this incident. Local currents and winds are distributing the nurdles far and wide.
CoastKZN is the data gathering and collection hub for information relating to the nurdle spill along our coast. Every bit of information is important and feeds into our database towards a “big picture” view of the catastrophe. The current data displayed reflects inputs from external sources and are currently incomplete. Please contact us if you would like to contribute to this bigger picture and help us fill the gaps.
The public is applauded for their effort in collecting nurdles, organising cleanups, creating awareness and contributing to our database. Thank you to each and every one of you for making a difference.
Tasked Response Efforts
Collecting plastic nurdles from along the entire KZN coast is now seen as a long term task. It has involved many concerned members of the public in addition to appointed and volunteer organisations. WildOceans has been tasked with coordinating the collection effort from three sources: RESOLVE / DRIZIT (appointed by MSC Shipping), A R Brink and Associates, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA: Working for the Coast teams) and the volunteer effort from the KZN Marine Waste Network.
Weekly reports are sent by WildOceans to CoastKZN for uploading of data. The map and graphs below shows the coordinated cleanup effort. “Zones” refer to the 5 regions allocated to the DEA Working for the Coast teams.
The cleanup operations will be halted at all popular bathing areas along the KZN coast from December 15, 2017 till January 8, 2018. Plastic nurdles cleanup operations will now focus on priority estuaries and remote beaches in KwaZulu-Natal to allow bathers and beach users access to enjoy the festive period without interruptions. Some of the areas which have been prioritized for now are the uThukela Mouth and aMatigulu/ iNyoni lagoon.
NOTE: While there are presently gaps in the data collected, this should improve with time and as formal collecting teams become more familiar with the data collecting process that complements the cleanup effort. Collectors are presently using supermarket shopping bags, without standardisation of size and/or weight collected. They will have scales provided so that this can be done in future. We are awaiting the standardisation of what they refer to as “bags”.
Please view the map below which shows public contributions of nurdles sightings along South Africa's coastline over time. The contributions are from various sources including CoastKZN, KZN Marine Waste Network and various other social media sources.