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We're All Going On A... Nurdle-Hunt!

Posted: Monday 11th January 2016 by The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Bar, from The Bite, Gugh ~ © BareFoot PhotographerBar, from The Bite, Gugh ~ © BareFoot Photographer

So, if you want to add "Nurdle Hunter" to your CV, read on to find out more...

There aren't many bears in Scilly so there really is very little point in going on a bear-hunt; nurdles, on the other hand, we have. Not in particularly large quantities (at the moment) but we do none-the-less have them. No, we haven't gone mad and we're not making it up; nurdles are real and so is hunting for them! 

What is a Nurdle?

Nurdles are small plastic pellets which, when melted together, are used in industry to make nearly all of our plastic products; they are very small (between 3-5mm) and often similar in shape to a lentil.  

Nurdles are usually clear or white in colour, sometimes becoming yellow over time, but you may also come across coloured nurdles too!  Due to their size and usual colour they are hard to spot, as they blend in with the sand.  To become an expert nurdle hunter you need to slow down and get close to the ground!


How do they end up on our beaches?

Nurdles are shipped around the world and because of their size it's easy for them to "escape".  Nurdle spills can happen during production, transportation or manufacturing; all of which can result in nurdles being washed out to sea and ending up on our beaches.

The nurdle hunt website's graphic shows how at each stage it is possible for nurdles to "escape", and from here it's a very short journey to the sea.

Once in the sea they disperse very quickly, carried by tides and currents and as a result can be transported to anywhere in the world. 

So with a hop, skip and a jump they can and do quite easily find their way onto Scilly beaches.

Nurdle Hunting

On a blustery, showery January day I followed the Ranger Team to Gugh to take some pictures of the work that they were doing.  After getting the pictures I wanted of the Rangers I took a few minutes to walk the tide-line on Bar and The Bite; wondering what I would find given the recent weather we have been experiencing.  

My first pass took me along the top tide-line where I came across a plastic bottle with Goose Barnacle passengers; a brightly coloured child's spade half buried in the sand; a left shoe; a Lynx can hiding in the Marram Grass; a dead Razorbill and a golf ball to name but a few things.

A Nurdle on The Bite, Gugh ~ © BareFoot Photographer

My second pass took me lower down the beach and I found my first ever Sea-Bean (really pleased with this find!), a syringe (not so happy with this find, but bought it back to the office none the less to dispose of  it safely) and then amongst the weed and tiny bits of brightly coloured small plastics I spotted a nurdle!

Once I'd got my eye in (for those of you who are Scilly regulars, it's a bit like hunting Guinea Money) they were fairly easy to spot and I found another and another and another.  

Whilst most were predominantly white, or slightly yellowish (depending on how long they'd been in the sea), there were a fair number of black ones and a blue one too!

In the short time that I was looking (probably about 5-10 minutes) I collected about 20-30 but could probably have gathered more; especially if I hadn't kept stopping to take photographs or had a boat to catch.  

So nurdles are well and truly here and it is most definitely possible to hunt for them (unlike bears!).

Now that I've found my Nurdles what do I do with them?

Plastic does not disappear, it does not go away ~ Sir David Attenborough (2011)

Well, that's up to you!  I have kept mine and intend to start a nurdle collection.  You clearly don't have to do this but, in the very least, you should collect them up and dispose of them in a more appropriate place as they can cause damage to wildlife.

Additionally, you could also log your find (as I have done) on the Nurdle Hunt website.  Although this is a Scottish based website they are taking recordings from other places in the country.  It's really quick and easy to do and will help greatly in terms of providing evidence to the plastics industry regarding how big a problem nurdles are, despite their tiny size.

So next time you're on the beach, whether in Scilly or elsewhere, why not join The Great Nurdle Hunt?

Read The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust's latest blog entries.


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