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'Nurdle Patrol' helps local environmentalists track pollutants

Posted at 5:33 PM, Oct 07, 2019

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Before launching the Nurdle Patrol website Jace Tunnell, the director of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, received around 500 reports of nurdle pollution per month.

With Nurdle Patrol, tracking data from coast-to-coast will become easier.

Nurdles are small pellets of plastic that are melted down and used to make larger plastic items. They are dangerous when they enter local waters because sealife are prone to mistake them for food, but they provide no nutritional value and can either make the sealife feel full but actually starve due to a lack of nutrients or they can get stuck in the animal's gut.

"We're able to work with regulatory agencies and folks that make decisions about how these pellets are getting into the environment so we can hopefully stop this from happening," Tunnell said. "The more data we have, the more shorelines are covered; really you're able to tell where the highest concentrations of these pellets are around the country."

The nurdle pellets typically are spilled at manufacturing sites and become harmful to the environment when fish, sea turtles, and birds mistake them for food.

This website just was launched Thursday, and already has international reports from Canada.

"Anybody in the world can do a nurdle survey and put their data into this map," Tunnell said. "Then they can zoom right into their community cause it's like a Google Earth-based format, and they can print up their own maps."

All the entry requires is a 10-minute search for nurdles. the location, number of nurdles, and pictures are then entered onto the site.

Tunnell and his team hope this new project will lead to more data and eventually track where these plastic pieces are coming from.