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Nurdle Patrol: How One Organization is Leading the Charge for Cleaner Oceans

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Nurdle Patrol: How One Organization is Leading the Charge for Cleaner Oceans

By: Dex Jones

Nurdle Patrol is a citizen science project. It aims to teach students about the dangers of plastic pollutants in the ocean, and what you can do to help.

The next time you visit the beach, grab yourself a handful of sand. Take a closer look at it. It’s stunning, right? The opaque mix of whites, blues, and greens make for a dazzling array of nature’s microscopic art.

You might notice the vibrant colors of our ocean’s natural sand. But you likely will scoop up a handful of toxic debris known as nurdles.

what is a nurdle

A nurdle is a tiny plastic pellet made from fossil fuels. Humans use them as a raw material to make plastic products.  They are often mistaken for large bits of sand.

Nurdles are full of toxic chemical compounds that are harmful to the Earth’s ecosystems.

We use these pellets to make single-use plastic water bottles. We also use them to make plastic utensils, grocery bags, straws, and more. These plastics absorb pollutants from water, air, and soil. When they break down, they often end up as litter in the ocean.  These plastics carry those pollutants into the ocean.

These pollutants are not released into the water. Instead, they  release into the digestive system of the animals that eat the plastic. This endangers marine life that confuses nurdles with food.

Nurdles spill is how they end up in the Ocean.

After their production, nurdles transport to factories that make plastic items. During transport, nurdles spill onto roadways, creeks, gutters, and sewers. These outlets flow into the ocean.

As nurdles travel in the water and on land, they break down and get smaller, which makes them harder to clean up. They get mixed with the sand, litter, and seaweed along the shore.

Nurdles absorb persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, from the environment.  POPS are dangerous to the wildlife that consumes them.

Why Are Nurdles a Problem

We make nurdles from fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming. They also soak up harmful chemicals that end up in the belly of the animals that eat them and larger fish eat smaller fish.

Because they are so small, about the size of a lentil, it’s hard to spot nurdles with your eye. Fish, birds, turtles, and even jellyfish often mistake these pellets for fish eggs.

How Do Nurdles Affect Fish and Other Wildlife?

These plastic pellets wash up along the shore and float in the ocean. They absorb pollutants from air, water and soil. When marine wildlife mistakes nurdles for food, chemicals release into their bloodstream. Learn how plastic ends up on beaches.

Nurdles are indigestible. Their brain gets the signal that it’s full, the animals stop hunting for food. The plastic (and toxins) stays in their belly, tricking them into thinking they are full. This causes them to die of starvation.

These same animals get eaten by a larger animal. Or caught and fed to humans, thus adding to a toxic cycle of pollution in the food chain.

Nurdles can also alter the temperature and texture of the sand. For land and sea creatures such as turtles, this poses a setback for finding a suitable place to nest.

How To Dispose of Nurdles and How To Clean Them Up?


Because nurdles are so small and hard to distinguish from fish eggs, they are difficult to remove. Ocean Blue Project is a non-profit organization. We dedicate our resources to cleaning up our oceans. Our goal is to rid the ocean of microplastic pollutants such as nurdles.

We team up with Nurdle Patrol, a project that brings together the public and lawmakers. Together we work to create a sustainable plan to clean up our ocean’s pollution and slow global warming.

Nurdle patrol encourages you to volunteer to collect nurdles from your local beach. Here’s how it works:

1. Head to the beach nearest you.

2. Find the high tideline (this is where you’re looking for plastic pellets).

3. Collect nurdles for 10 minutes.

4. Write down the number of nurdles collected, location, and date.

5. Take a picture of the nurdles you collected.

6. Submit your data to Nurdle Patrol.

The entire experience only takes about 20 minutes. You can get your friends and family involved. Learn more about Nurdle Patrol’s mission here.

Together with Nurdle Patrol, Ocean Blue Project helps organize local beach “clean-ups”. At these events, you gather with members in your community who are also passionate about clean ocean resources.

How You Can Help Make Impact For Our Ocean


To make an impact today, join the fight against single-use plastics! Single-use plastics are non-reusable items. Water bottles, plastic grocery bags, straws, and utensils are a few examples. We throw these items away of after one use.

Consider switching to a reusable material. Aluminum or stainless steel bottles, paper straws, and washable utensils are great examples. Take advantage of reusable bags made from materials other than plastic.

Together, we can inspire future generations. We will stop global warming and create a clean, healthy environment for marine wildlife to thrive.

To donate to Ocean Blue Project for the enhancement of our ecosystem, please visit us here.

Dex Jones is an adventurer, mom, writer, and PADI scuba diver living in California.

Nurdle Patrol

Plastic pollution floating onto beaches in Oregon
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