What is a nurdle?



What the heck is a nurdle?

The word nurdle is non-threatening, I mean it rhymes with turtle for heaven's sake and nothing that rhymes with turtle can be bad for the environment, right?  WRONG! 

 A nurdle is a very small plastic pellet (about the size of a pea) which serves as the raw material to create virtually any plastic good.  Billions of nurdles are used each year to create the many plastic products we see every day (plastic bags, bottles, and containers all started as nurdles).  While nurdles look and sound harmless, that is not the case.  In fact, during some of our Lake Michigan beach cleanups we have found thousands of nurdles along the Lake Michigan shoreline.


How do nurdles end up in Lake Michigan?

I wish I could provide a definitive and absolute answer to this question but unfortunately I can't right now.  I will go ahead and state the obvious and remind you that nurdles are small, very small and small things are hard to keep track of (example: I lose my car keys ~ 1/week).  You partner that with companies not being held responsible for when their plastic waste ends up in the wrong spot and I am not surprised we are seeing these on the Lake Michigan shoreline.  The most likely causes of nurdle pollution include:

  • Factory spills (factories perhaps on Lake Michigan or waterways connected to Lake Michigan)
  • Spills at sea (cargo ships carrying nurdles across the Great Lakes)
  • Spills in transit (nurdles escaping trucks and railcars and ending up in our waterways)


Why are nurdles bad? 

  • Pollutants are drawn to the surface of nurdles, causing a concentrated high rate of toxicity in the water
  • Nurdles get mistaken for food
  • THEY DON'T GO AWAY… instead they break into smaller particles over time


What can we do? 

The answers are simple, yet not easy! 

  1. Reuse plastic containers
  2. Use refillable bottles and mugs (check out the Fresh Water Life reusable camper cup)
  3. Join a beach cleanup event (join us for a Lake Michigan beach cleanup)


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