South Africa: Nurdle Spills Point to a Bigger Problem of Too Much Plastic


You might have been on a Cape beach recently and wondered why work teams are sieving sand: The Cape nurdle clean-up continues.

When beachgoers first noticed bucketloads of nurdles washing up on Cape beaches in October 2020, non-government organisations and the public started picking them up.

Now Spill Tech teams, contracted by shipping crisis emergency response experts Protecting & Indemnity (P&I) Associates, are picking up the nurdles, which have been providing employment opportunities since they began their clean-up on 4 November 2020.

Nurdles, or resin pellets of less than 5mm in diameter, are the raw building blocks of plastic products. They are made of different polymers and come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Aaniyah Omardien, founder and director of the Beach Co-op, says "the nurdles spilt in the recent spill were made of linear low-density polyethylene, which has a very low density, making them float".

Omardien explains that "nurdles are found throughout our oceans, even in the Arctic Circle, and it is estimated that about 230,000 tonnes of nurdles enter the environment annually from accidental spills from production, transportation and manufacturing".

The problem with nurdles is, "they really look like eggs, so they get confused by sea birds, turtles...

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