Nurdle Overload

Beautiful Whitsands Bay is in the South East of Cornwall, since it is very close to Plymouth, I visit regularly. I often find plastic, and rubbish on the beach here, but I have never seen it like this before.

 

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Jen and Hannah walking near Whitsands bay in Cornwall, UK

When Jen and I headed to the beach on Sunday 19th February, originally to collect sea glass for making jewellery, we were amazed to see it completely covered in plastic pellets (or Nurdles as they are often called) and other small pieces of plastic. Every strand line on the beach was littered with black and grey plastic pellets; at first they were disguised, and looked like small rocks, but with closer inspection it was clear that the beach was covered in Nurdles.

 

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Rock pools full of Nurdles!

The sheer amount of these tiny round pellets was overwhelming, there was no way two people could collect all of these, and it would be nearly impossible without also collecting tonnes of stones and sand.

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A bag full of Nurdles and micro plastics, but there were still thousands on the beach!

Soon we started filling our bags (originally designed to be filled with sea glass!), but despite both collecting all we could, we only removed about 5% of what was on the beach.

 

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The large, small and pellet plastics collected at Whitsands Bay on 19/02/2017

 

Since the Great Nurdle Hunt last weekend, the presence of these plastic pellets on UK beaches has received large amounts of media attention. Seeing a beach completely covered in micro plastics makes me feel sick and completely overwhelmed; imagine, if this many are present on one little beach in Cornwall, how much must be floating around our oceans.

These plastic pellets are often confused with fish eggs, and are consumed by other fish,  once in the stomach they will make their way up the food chain. Additionally, plastic acts as a sponge to chemicals, and thus takes these chemicals on the journey up the food chain, eventually these plastics and chemicals accumulate in large fish and marine mammals!

The solution to this problem is to tackle the source, stop plastic getting into the environment and for humans to reduce our plastic consumption. Plastic should be treated as a precious, finite resource, not disposable and cheap!

 

 

Two firsts for Today’s Catch!

In the FOUR, yes four years I have been cleaning beaches around the world and writing this blog I have not experienced these events before….

The first, first is a very good first….my first ever beach clean after 10pm! Luckily I live in Scotland and I can run along the beach late in the evening and it is still light!

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East Sands, St Andrews at sunset

My second first, unfortunately is a very bad first: My first ever Condom….urgh!

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Urgh! The first condom to ever be found on today’s Catch! 

Luckily I had already found a plastic bag so I could pick it up without touching it!

 

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On my very short beach run I also collected 4 pieces of plastic, a balloon and string and a Tesco’s plastic bag!

 

 

 

 

A thank you from the North Sea

There was so much plastic on East Sands beach today I had to stop my run and collect it! Luckily the sea had washed up a large fishing tub that I could use.

 

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A tub full of plastic collected on just a small part of East Sands beach

 

When the rain started getting harder and the tub was almost too heavy to drag, I reached down to collect one last crisp packet….and underneath the bag was this:

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A sea glass bottle stopper! The first one I have ever found! I think it was the North Sea’s way of saying thank you!

 

Not such a ‘HAPPY MEAL’!!!

Selfish, selfish humans

Its been a while since I’ve posted on here; of cause I have been collecting rubbish every time I walk to the beach,but as I am in the middle of a masters degree, I have been very busy.

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Rubbish collected on East Sands beach a few weeks ago

 

Today, after a long day of analysing humpback whale song (and believe me it doesn’t always sound like it does on the relaxation CDs) I went for a long run. Living in St. Andrews is fantastic, not only does the beautiful town have everything you may need, but after a short 10 minute run and you can get to a beautiful deserted beach.

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Over looking St Andrews from the coastal path

It’s been a while since I ran the coast path as it has been so muddy recently, but after a few days of sunshine it was dry. When I arrived at the deserted beach, instead of the happiness I usually feel from seeing this lovely place, I was greeted with crisp packets, biscuit wrappers and fizzy drinks bottles! This is a beach 15min walk from the nearest road and people have the disrespect to leave their picnic wrappers like that!

 

Todays catch

In total there were:

5 crisp packets
Jammie dodgers packet
a packet from Tiramisu bars…all with individual wrappers!
Haribo marshmallows bag
A BARR bubblegum drinks bottle
A Rockstar energy drinks can
But luckily they had left their costcutter plastic bag for me to collect it all in!

This proves that a lot of our plastic waste is caused by junk food, there would not be a problem is they had left a apple core and a banana skin!

Sights like I saw today make me so disappointed in the human race, we live on such an amazing planet, we are so fortunate to be here, and we can’t even take a few measly crisp packets to the nearest bin!

 

Guest Entry: Petite Anse, Seychelles. Written by Jo Eames

I met Clare 3 years ago; we were working together on a Humpback whale survey project off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Living across the globe from each other, but both working in the marine environment field, we have remained friends. I have been following her blog of beach cleans and now as I work on the beach I decided it was time to write a guest entry.

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I moved to the Seychelles in March this year and joined the WiseOceans team as a Marine Educator at Four Seasons Resort Seychelles. Seychelles is a collection of granitic and coralline islands in the Indian Ocean just below the equator. In fact 99.9% of the exclusive economic zone of the Seychelles is water. The largest island, and the one on which I am located, is Mahe; with a surface area of 150km² and home to only 90,000 people. Petite Anse is located in south-west Mahe, and although it is mostly occupied by resort guests, as with all beaches in Seychelles it remains public. The beach is approximately 400m in length, not particularly wide and backed by shrubs and trees.

When the winds blow from the south-east this bay is sheltered, calm and idyllic. The white sand looks untouched, with little to no seaweed, shells or corals. During the north-west season, which is now upon us, we see some changes occur on the beach. One of the most noticeable is the large amount of rubbish washing up amongst the seaweed.

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In our role as WiseOceans Marine Educators, myself and colleague Charlotte conduct a daily beach walk – a great way to start the day! We are on the lookout for any variations to the beach or signs of nesting turtles, and of course we always take a bag and pick up any litter we find. During the south-east season our haul is minimal, maybe a few bottle tops and cigarette butts. But with the change in winds our daily treasure hunts have increased in scale, with some days filling 5 bags with washed up litter! Items have included but not limited to:image005

  • Flip-flops
  • Micro plastics
  • Polystyrene
  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic drink bottles
  • Drink cans
  • Scraps of fabric
  • Glass bottles
  • Light bulbs
  • Plastic toys – my favourite being the army of soldiers

 

Examining the items that are washed up we could conclude the majority of it is thrown overboard or lost from leisure boats. Arriving directly from the open ocean, some items have been floating around for a considerable time and come ashore covered in barnacles, crabs and algae.

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Keeping our beach clean is a team effort and luckily we are supported by the resort staff who all lend a helping hand. For those new to the beach witnessing this change has been an eye opener to the issues of marine litter. I think they are especially surprised at the time it takes for some items to biodegrade and the sheer quantity of it (up to 20 single flip-flops in one trip). It’s also interesting for them to see us scrambling in the sand to collect all the micro plastics, as even the smallest pieces can have a negative impact on marine wildlife.

Last Today’s Catch in New Zealand: 4th November Kiritehere Beach

After working on the BRAHSS (behavioural response of Australian whales to seismic surveys) project in Queensland Australia, I travelled back to New Zealand for 10 days to say a few goodbyes before moving back to England.
Whilst in NZ there were a few things I wanted to do, amongst these, go to Kawhia and dig a natural hot pool on the beach and see a kiwi. Given my time restraints I didn’t fancy becoming nocturnal to try and see one the wild, so I accepted I would have to see one in captivity.

Trying to find natural hot springs on Kawhia beach.

Trying to find natural hot springs on Kawhia beach.

After visiting Kawhia but not succeeding to find hot pools and going to Otorohanga kiwi house (Kiwis are awesome birds: basically just a huge furry bum with a long pointy beak!) we travelled to the small seaside town of Marokopa. It was a beautiful town next to a river with a wild black sand beach. We stayed at the Marokopa campsite in a retro caravan for 2 nights; It was a lovely clean place with amazing water tank toilets!

The next morning we travelled 5km South to Kiritehere beach, to see if we could find any waves. We walked along the beach to see if the point was working and I could not believe that there was so much plastic all along the beach.

A plastic bottle on Kiritehere beach with the point break in background.

A plastic bottle on Kiritehere beach with the point break in background.

We soon realised there was no surf, so we set out to do a Today’s Catch. After walking only 20m we had filled our bucket, but this didn’t deter us, we just piled it all up and hoped we would be able to carry it all back.

Collecting plastic on Kiritehere Beach.

Collecting plastic on Kiritehere Beach.

Our collection of plastic, including a large plastic oil drum!

Our collection of plastic, including a large plastic oil drum!

After hours and hundreds of pieces of plastic, despite there being loads still on the beach, we had collected all that we could carry so we missioned it back to the car to sort it.

Sorting the plastic on the grass by the Kiritehere stream

Sorting the plastic on the grass by the Kiritehere stream

Here is a sample of what we found:

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I have found shotgun shell wadding on almost all of my NZ beach cleans, this beach was by far the most I have collected on one beach.

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Shot gun shell wadding & cases found on Kiritehere Beach

Micro plastics (NOAA definition plastics under 5mm, however on this beach clean I used all plastics <10mm) are present on most beaches around the world, I have certainly found them on all beach cleans I have done. Probably the most common microplastic is the nurdle or plastic pellet are regularly confused as fish eggs by birds and fish, so they are consumed, which fills up stomachs so the organism usually dies of starvation. I always try to collect as many micro plastics as I can, however this is very time consuming. This beach I particular had a lot of microplastics, probably the most I have seen on one beach!

Microplastics and Nurdles found on Kiritehere Beach

Microplastics and Nurdles found on Kiritehere Beach

Kiritehere Beach was deserted with only about 10 houses surrounding it, therefore it is likely that the majority of this plastic had washed up. When I see beaches like this it really draws home the marine debris problem in our world and demonstrates the vast amounts of plastic in our oceans. I know this Today’s Catch made a difference to this beach, but it is very hard to walk away from a beach still covered in plastic, I just hope someone can go back and clean it again!

There was however one piece of plastic I didn’t try to remove:

Plastic tag still attached to a sheep a carcass.

Plastic tag still attached to a sheep a carcass.

Along with everything photographed on this page we also collected:

27 pieces of polystyrene

2 balloons

2 clothes pegs (which I took home to put on my washing line!)

1 Hair curler

2 parts of a syringes

1 Bic lighter

1 Body board leash

1 Lego piece

12 clear pieces of plastic

259 Pieces of miscellaneous plastic including:

183 small pieces of plastic (10mm-50mm)
42 medium pieces of plastic (50mm-200mm)
19 large pieces of plastic (200mm-500mm)

Guest Entry: Dimitrios Kaloudis – Arillas Beach, Corfu, Greece

This summer was a landmark for me; for the first time in eight years I got to spend a full summer at home in Arillas, Corfu while writing my PhD thesis. It was a special summer in many ways but mostly because I got the chance to catch up with childhood friends and to indulge in my greatest passion; the sea! Spearfishing Sundays, taking pedal boats to secret beaches, day-time and night-time swims and walking the dogs on the beach at sunset were my chosen ways to clear my head after hard writing stints.

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However there was a sad twist to this beauty; the amount of plastic rubbish on the beach. From millimetre-size debris washed-up by the waves to cups of coffee, bottles, ice-cream wrappers etc. left behind by people. I don’t know if there was more than when I was a teenager or whether it was always there and it was my eyes that had been opened. Either way, on every walk along the beach I saw plastic everywhere and knowing how much marine life it kills, this left me quite frustrated. I resolved to take a plastic bag with me every time went to the beach was usually able to pick up 5-20 pieces of plastic without really looking for them.

At the same time I was very happy to find that my Marine Biology course mate Clare has been doing this for years and has created Today’s Catch blog about her beach cleans! She kindly gave me permission to write a guest entry in the hope that more people pick up this habit or at least stop leaving their rubbish on the beach. So here goes…

Epic Beach Clean – 1st of September 2014

One of the special features of Arillas is that part of the beach is quite isolated. This part is one of the oldest and most well-known nudist beaches in Greece. There is also a strong presence of tourists, who come to Arillas for “spiritual” holidays (meditation etc.) and one of the main attractions for them has always been the isolated and pristine nudist beach. While the main part of the beach is cleaned by the locals regularly, the nudist beach does not get as much attention because access is not easy and no-one is making money out of it as there are no sunbeds or businesses close by.

Towards the end of the summer I started noticing that people would just leave their umbrellas, beach mats and bags of other beach equipment on the beach to save carrying them up and down the steep walk to their apartment every day. Worse though I noticed people would leave broken umbrellas and beach mats on the beach rather than carry them away and dispose them properly. Over the whole summer this made for lots of umbrellas! Some even got creative, making little shading huts with all the rubbish they found lying around!

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On the 1st of September the first storm of autumn was forecast to hit our shores. It is normal to get a wild storm sometime in late-August, early-September for a few days almost to signify the end of high-season. Thinking about how much plastic there was on our beach from a whole summer of tourist activity and how much of it was about to be broken up and carried into the sea by this storm (esp. the umbrellas) slightly terrified me so I decided to do my best with whoever could help. My good friend Feli and her mum Sabina were up for it, so the afternoon before the storm was about to hit we armed ourselves with ropes and bin bags and headed down to the beach.

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Sabina and Feli

I thought it would be easy but when we started cleaning we quickly realised the task was much bigger than we expected. There were hundreds of pieces of polystyrene mixed with driftwood on the upper shore as well as plastic bottles, cups and bags and 40-50 old umbrellas and about the same number of old beach mats spread along about 400-500 metres of beach. There was also an inflatable canoe full of beach stuff that was badly (if at all) secured. We all rushed around, slightly overwhelmed, with the wind picking up, the waves coming in and the sun going down, trying to do as much as we could.

Trying to work as fast as possible before the waves come in.

Trying to work as fast as possible before the waves come in.

I took the task of collecting and dragging all the old umbrellas and beach mats while Feli and Sabina filled bag after bag with rubbish. After about three hours of hard work all our bags were full, we had much more stuff than we could physically carry back to civilisation and the light was failing so we decided to call it off. We secured all new/usable items as far up the cliff as possible (as well as a huge pile of old umbrellas that was just too much to carry) and dragged the rest back to the car. I believe we picked up or secured about 60-80% of what was present on the beach – certainly all the big items – but I’m sure we could have gone on for another few hours and there would still be rubbish to collect.

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There doesn't seem to be much plastic among the driftwood. Until you start looking!

There doesn’t seem to be much plastic among the driftwood. Until you start looking!

It was nearly 10pm by the time we were finished and the waves were getting bigger and bigger so we decided to celebrate with a night-time swim in the rough sea. Quite intimidating considering how rough the sea was but lots of fun! We finished the day with a meal at Porto Timoni restaurant, with awesome food, overlooking the cliffs to the sea and with the storm breaking out on cue; just as we got into the restaurant!

First pile of umbrellas and bags the next day.

First pile of umbrellas and bags the next day.

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The storm lasted a couple more days, making access to the beach difficult but we were happy to see the next day that all the items we secured were still there. I had to leave for the UK on the 5th of September but Feli, despite her bad back, ensured the last pile of umbrellas and beach mats was taken away and disposed of properly.

Morning after and the second wave of the storm is about to hit. (picture by Thalassa Restaurant)

Morning after and the second wave of the storm is about to hit. (picture by Thalassa Restaurant)

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So I have to say a huge thank you to Feli and Sabina for the huge effort when really they were supposed to be on their holidays and thank you Clare for hosting our story! This is not about the beauty of the beach, it is not about the image of our resort. It is about the inhabitants of our ocean, the whales, the dolphins, the turtles, the seabirds. It is about our grandchildren so they can inherit an ocean that is still alive.

Sunset Run on Peregian Beach >>>BALLOONS EVERYWHERE!

After a lovely run along the beach with my friend Pippa, we walked back picking up plastic. We found a mixture of things, but I could not believe how many balloons and parts of balloons there were!

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Balloon releases are still occurring despite the environmental impacts (recent news articles: BBC news, Independent news).

However there are alternative ways to celebrate, pay tribute or mark an occasion: Alternatives from the Marine Conservation Society

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NOOSA, AUSTRALIA – butts butts butts!

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I went to check the surf early this morning, there wasn’t any! So I strolled along the beach to check if there were any little peelers by the breakwater. I thought I may as well walk along the strand line to see if there was any plastic. Noosa is surprisingly clean for such a busy beach, but there were LOADS of cigarette butts! Smoking NEEDS to be banned from beaches!

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BUT. . . . .cleaning the beach pays off, I also found this:

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17th June – Ngarunui beach

Just a short stroll along the beach on a grey day, as I had nothing better to do and needed some fresh air!
It was only a 30min walk from the Lifeguard Hut to the Bush Reserve track but with 3 sets of hands we ended up with a lot of rubbish!

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