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!

 

 

Whitsands Bay – Cornwall, UK

Walking down the cliff to Whitsands bay

Whitsands bay is in south east Cornwall, just over the Tamar river from Plymouth. A beautiful sandy beach sits beneath huge cliffs and the beach is only accessible at low tide, because of this any plastic left on the beach will be swept away by the high water. After spending the weekend at the bay, I went for a short walk with my dog on Monday evening. I was so disgusted by the amount of plastic washed up on the beach that I had to run back up the cliff to get a few bin bags and another pair of hands!

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The plastic had all been washed up to the base of the cliffs on the last spring tide.

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A few of the branded products we found.

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We managed to collect 3 full bin bags in 30 minutes!

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The hardest part was carrying all the bags up the cliffs, but we had help from Elmo the dog….

It is very satisfying to leave a beach having cleared so much rubbish and it makes it even more worthwhile when you can also collect some sea gems!

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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)

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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9th May 2014 – Ngarunui Beach, Raglan.

 

After a lovely long run across the fields and forest that surrounds the beach I walked back along the strandline to see what plastic and other rubbish I could find. It was a beautiful warm autumn day and the tide was mid-rising! It is about 3kms along the beach and took me about 40mins.

This is what I found:

20140510-120849.jpgIncluding:
7 plastic lid rings,
7 sports cap covers
Coke can, schwepps lid,
kiwi blue, VB bottle top
and a straw!

 

 

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Also found:

11 pieces of Pallet ties
7 Fishing floats
6 pieces Cellophane type plastic
5 Candy wrappers

9 pieces of large miscellaneous plastic
2 large plastic lids
Sunscreen lid
Plastic leaf toy
Bucket handle
Large Piece of polystyrene

 

TOTAL = 196 pieces of plastic!

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