Parts of Spain’s northern coastlines are facing a major environmental challenge as they have been overwhelmed by the presence of tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles. To combat this issue, dedicated volunteers have been working tirelessly using sifters to remove these pellets from the beaches and seas.
Nurdles, which are lentil-sized plastic pellets, serve as a fundamental building block for the production of nearly all plastic products. Startlingly, it has been reported by Scotland-based environmental charity, Fidra, that a staggering 445,970 tons of nurdles find their way into the environment every year. Consequently, nurdles have become the second-largest primary source of microplastic worldwide.
The influx of these pellets in Spain commenced on December 13th. This occurrence is attributed to the loss of six containers belonging to the Danish shipping company A.P. Moeller-Maersk. The containers were aboard the Liberian registered charter vessel Toconao, when they were misplaced in deep sea waters approximately 50 miles off the Galician coast of Spain on December 8th. Providing insight into this incident, Rainer Horn, the senior press officer at the Danish shipping giant, stated in an email that the Spanish and Portuguese coast guards were promptly alerted. Additionally, Horn specified that while none of the containers posed any risk involving dangerous goods, one container did contain bags filled with plastic pellets. Horn further mentioned that the vessel’s owner has already initiated the services of cleanup experts to tackle this pressing issue.
Horn emphasized the highest level of importance placed on the safety of the crew, vessel, cargo, and the environment as a whole. He assured that a thorough investigation will be conducted and appropriate measures will be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future. At present, the exact cause of the container loss remains under investigation.
Nurdles Pollution Threatens the Asturian Coastline
The Animalist Party With the Environment (PACMA) in Spain took to social media to request the activation of a level 2 emergency from Galicia’s government in order to address this pollution crisis. The party also expressed gratitude towards the numerous volunteers who have been tirelessly working to clean up Galicia’s beaches by using sifters to remove the small plastic pellets.
Initial tests conducted on the pellets revealed that they are made from a common plastic called polyethylene, which is considered non-hazardous. Galician officials, addressing the issue, have started collaborating with municipalities and deployed a team of 200 individuals dedicated to the removal of these pellets. However, they expressed their dissatisfaction with the central Spanish government for its slow response in informing them about the disaster.
It is worth noting that this is not the first incident of nurdle pollution. The most significant event of this kind occurred in 2021, when a staggering 1,680 tonnes of these plastic pellets were released off the coast of Sri Lanka by the MV X-Press Pearl. The consequences were devastating, causing extensive damage to wildlife and communities.