Tackling marine plastic pollution is a vast and complicated global challenge driven by a broad array of sources and requiring a complex interaction of measures and solutions. Plastic pellet – or nurdle – pollution is just one aspect of the plastic crisis and yet, as the second largest direct source of marine microplastic pollution, it is a significant cause for concern.

What are they?

Plastic pellets are the building blocks of the plastic industry: nearly every plastic item including bottles, trays, shrink wrap and bubble wrap starts life in pellet form. Small, cheap, and produced in their billions, pellets are shipped around the world between plastic manufacturing plants. Careless handling results in both chronic and acute losses of pellets from supply chains and the resulting pollution can have a significant impact on marine biodiversity.

Once in the environment, plastic pellets are pervasive, persistent pollutants. Inherently toxic as a result of the additives used during production, plastic pellets have also been shown to attract and adsorb background, toxic chemicals in the marine environment. Clean-up efforts are costly, time-consuming, and ineffective. The absence of effective measures to prevent pellet pollution is proving extremely harmful to marine ecosystems, marine life, and ultimately has severe socio-economic repercussions.

What’s the risk?

Supply chain pellet loss undermines corporate efforts to reduce plastic pollution. Left unchecked, pellet loss undermines efforts to reduce waste, improve resource management and transition to more circular economy principles. Spilt pellets represent a health and safety issue in the workplace and ultimately, presents a reputational risk to all companies in a supply chain.

What’s the solution?

What sets this source of microplastic pollution aside from others, however, is that preventing pellet loss at sea and on land is possible. And it is achievable.

In this talk, we present the scale of the challenge, why it’s an issue for marine biodiversity and some of the practical steps that can be taken to eliminate this source of pollution. We conclude by exploring the role that different stakeholders can play in reversing the trend and highlight policy options that would level the playing field to ensure joined up action across global value chains.

Contact our speakers:

Tanya Cox: Tanya.Cox@fauna-flora.org

Heather McFarlane: Heather.Mcfarlane@fidra.org.uk

Suzanne Johnston: suzanne@ps-partnerships.com

Victoria Sant: Victoria.Sant@investorforum.org.uk

Robert Thompson: robert.thompson@coop.co.uk

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