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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oodles of Nurdles

When I was a kid, my friends and I would comb through the sand of Laguna Beach and find these small pellets. They were translucent and almost rubbery. We would chew on them -I have no idea why - I guess we too thought of them as everlasting jaw breakers. We also endlessly debated what they were. The lense of a fish eye... cartiledge from a shark...etc. Little did we know they were actually little piece of plastic polluting the ocean and absorbing toxins!

Chad Nelsen
Environmental Director

Officials trying to keep tiny pellets out of waterways

Plastic makes up 60% to 80% of ocean trash

By Alex Breitler
February 19, 2007
Record Staff Writer

Nurdles: They sound like a Willy Wonka invention.

Indeed, these BB-sized plastic pellets - used by manufacturers to make containers, lids and even cell phones - are like everlasting jawbreakers when lost in California rivers and the Pacific Ocean.

They might drift with the currents for hundreds of years unless first eaten by fish. And there are likely billions of them out there, spilled into waterways over the years by sloppy workers.

Wildlife experts, state officials and plastics manufacturers this month are putting more emphasis on keeping nurdles out of the environment. The California Ocean Protection Council passed a resolution calling for manufacturers to keep closer tabs on the pellets; and a bill proposed in the Legislature would require increased monitoring of businesses that use nurdles improperly.

Many nurdles come from inland sources, officials say. It's not clear how many funnel through the Delta, which drains most of Northern and Central California.

"It's a serious thing. We know that these pellets and these pieces of plastic do absorb toxins" and can cause cancer, said Bill Macdonald of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, based in Long Beach.

Nurdles, of course, are only one piece of the plastic problem. Worldwide, plastic makes up 60 percent to 80 percent of ocean trash. In parts of the Pacific Ocean, researchers have documented up to six times more floating plastic than plankton, the microorganisms that feed nearly all aquatic creatures.

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