Nurdle Soup

Thursday 7th of March 2013

POSTED BY: Amy Warne, Earth Carers Coordinator

I had heard about them before, I'd seen them on movies like Bag it and Plasticized, they're everywhere on the web (like this blog and this blog) but I'd never seen one in real life. I must admit that i thought they were the problem of other places like Midway Atoll or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or some far off gyer or Hong Kong, I'd heard about that big awful spill. But I didn't think these insidious, nasty, fish egg look a likes were lurking just down the road. But alas, they are in Minim Cove, Mosman Park, Western Australia. 

So, what are they? Nurdles are pre-production pellets of plastic about the same size as a styrofoam bean bag bean but hard and usually white or clear. They get in to our environment because they are transported in this pelletised state and, given the amount of plastic we transport and consume, inevitably there will be spills. You know what they say ‘the ocean is down hill of everywhere’ so nurdles roll or are washed into our oceans. There  they absorbed all kinds of toxins such as mercury, are eaten by marine animals, who eat other marine animals who, if they don’t die from malnutrition, are often eaten by us. I, for one find this problematic.

Here they are, the Minim Cove variety:

So this Clean Up Australia Day I went hunting nurdles. I enlisted the help of local expert nurdle hunters. Here they are with their home crafted nurdle nets. Go Girls!

It turns out these little buggers were way less illusive than woozles or heffalumps – there were millions of them!

We met on the pristine, multi million dollar residential area parkway by the river and  there was not a piece of plastic or litter in sight. But through the reeds on the river’s edge it is a different story. It was nurdle soup, garnished with thin film plastic. In other places it was like a plastic sandwich with layers of reeds, plastic, reeds, plastic and so on.  I was completely amazed at the state of our Swan River. It was disgusting.


It was so difficult to clean up the nurdles and other bits of micro plastic because the pieces were so tiny. The larger pieces of thin film plastic were also difficult to clean up because as soon as you touched it it just broke up into more pieces. Ah yes, plastic breaks up, it does not break down and it never goes away. Poor fish. Poor birds. Single use, disposable plastic, I hate you.

After chatting to local sustainability officers I learned that Minim Cove is a unique ‘collection point’ for the river – it is not just Mosman Park residents being particularly lazy in their efforts to reduce litter. It is a whole of city problem – we are just lucky enough that Mosman Park residents (and the Town of Mosman Park CEO) care enough to do something about it.


Can we do enough? In truth, the thirty wonderful volunteers who cleaned up the site bearly scraped the surface. We collected 76 bags of rubbish but I suspect that in a couple of weeks time it will look the same. So what is the solution? There was talk of litter traps on the rivers like in Melbourne – looks like a great idea.

There was also a lot of blame – was it the boat people (for want of a better term), locals littering, illegal dumping…and why do we need all this plastic anyway? Why don’t we have a container deposit scheme like in SA. I think all these comments are valid and true. But remember we all accidently litter at times, we all use plastics – but let’s try to reduce it. Give Plastic Free July a go – even if its just giving up plastic bags for a month - you might never go back to plastic. And its so much more fun doing it with friends and even better when you are part of a movement to get away from plastics. Send a message to the Environment minister or your local MP about Container Deposit Legislation. Tell them about Minim Cove. Pick up rubbish – and don’t do it sheeplshly like you’ve just been given scab duty by your teacher, be loud and proud about it! Take a photo and post it on the Two Hand Facebook page! There are lots of little things we can all do - and I'm positive its more fun doing it together!

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