178 White tides: The plastic nurdles problem

Galgani F., Rangel-Buitrago N. (2024) Journal of Hazardous Materials, 470, art. no. 134250, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2024.134250

ABSTRACT: The proliferation of plastic pollution, particularly from nurdles (small plastic pellets used in manufacturing), poses significant environmental and ecological risks. Originating with the invention of Bakelite in 1907 and escalating post-World War II with advanced petrochemical technologies, nurdles are the second largest source of primary microplastic pollution globally. Each year an estimated 445,970 tonnes of nurdles enter the environment worldwide. Nurdle spills, such as those along Spain’s Galician coast and other global incidents, underline the need for improved spill response, preventive measures, and international regulatory coordination. The environmental impact of nurdles, compared to more visible oil spills, is insidious and long-lasting due to their persistence and widespread dispersion. Current regulations, like the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) guidelines, reveal gaps in enforcement and fail to fully address the long-term consequences of spills. Recent technological innovations and policy interventions aim to mitigate risks, but there’s an urgent need for coordinated global action, stricter controls, and investment in biodegradable alternatives to safeguard marine environments and ensure ecological sustainability.

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