Sustainable Energy

Plastic pellets found on 73 percent of UK shoreline, survey finds

Citizen of the Planet | UIG | Getty Images

A survey by volunteers in the U.K. has found that nurdles – small plastic pellets – are posing a big problem to shorelines across the country.

Between February 3 and 5, more than 600 volunteers trawled U.K. beaches looking for them, with nurdles found on 73 percent of the locations searched.

The weekend was a collaborative effort between Scottish charity Fidra – which set up and ran the hunt – and the Marine Conservation Society, Fauna & Flora International, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Greenpeace and Surfers Against Sewage.

On one beach in Cornwall, in the south west of the country, 33 volunteers from the Widemouth Task Force found 127,500 nurdles on a 100 meter section.

"The information we've gathered will be vital to show the U.K. government that pellets are found on beaches all around the UK, and, importantly, that so many people care about the issue," Madeleine Berg, projects officer at Fidra, said in a statement.

Nurdles may sound harmless, but the lentil-sized plastic pellets can soak up chemicals and be eaten by animals, causing significant harm. Fidra say that nurdles can attract and concentrate "background pollutants" such as DDT and PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls – to very toxic levels.

"Simple precautionary measures can help prevent spillages and ensure nurdles don't end up in our environment," Berg added. "We are asking the U.K. government to ensure best practice is in place along the full plastic supply chain, and any further nurdle pollution is stopped."

While the news regarding nurdles may be sobering, some progress is being made when it comes to tackling other forms of waste and pollution on U.K. beaches.

Last year, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) announced that the number of plastic carrier bags found on U.K. beaches had fallen by almost half in only one year thanks to a supermarket surcharge.

Nevertheless, the MSC added that its volunteers had still found a large amount of rubbish, with more than 268,000 individual pieces being removed from beaches between 2015 and 2016.