Nurdles at Chili Beach Cleanup 2011

I’d never heard of nurdles before – it’s a beautiful sounding word but unfortunately has sinister connotations.

Nurdles at Chili Beach Cleanup 2011

Nurdles at Chili Beach Cleanup 2011

Nurdles are small plastic resin pellets (usually under 5 mm diameter)  used as the main raw product in the manufacture of plastic products.
They are one of the main sources of marine debris.
Nurdles resemble fish eggs, absorb toxins and there are billions of them out there (some estimate there are more the 120 billion kilograms with about 50,000 nurdles per kilogram).
Heidi from Tangoroa told me that they once collected 6,600 nurdles in 1 sq m of sand in WA

Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society has more information in their pdf Fact Sheet on Nurdles

I learnt about nurdles while attending the annual Chili Beach Cleanup in July 2011. It was a great time with many interesting people attending.

They included students from Lockhart State School, residents of Lockhart, Portland Roads and Restoration Island, Kawadji-Kanindji Rangers, Jen Goldberg from Ghostnets, Heidi Taylor from Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society, Sheils Barra from Cook Shire Council, Barry Murray from Rio Tinto, National Parks Rangers and various travellers.

Anna and Matt and Ronya, Lotta and Torben

Anna and Matt and Ronya, Lotta and Torben

Anna, Matt and their 3 children Ronya, Lotta and Torben were wwoofing on Restoration Island whilst on a holiday around Australia.

They are from Denmark in WA were they own Windrose B&B which is being managed by a friend from Germany whiile they are travelling around Australia.

They had just spent a week or so with Dave on Restoration Island, and as he was coming in for the cleanup they decided to join him.

The Kawadji-Kanindji (Land & Sea) Rangers  – Claudia, Caroline, Denis and Neil,  had previously cleaned another section of Chili Beach on the weekend. They had worked with Andy Baker, the QPWS Ranger,  Jen Goldberg from Ghostnets and Heidi Taylor from Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society. It was great for these people from different organisations to be able to work together with the common goals of removing and cataloging the marine debris. The Kawadji Kanindji rangers are keen to continue doing marine debris clean-ups and monitoring of the area.

Neil, Andy, Claudia, Denis, Caroline, Heidi

Neil, Andy, Claudia, Denis, Caroline, Heidi

The  Ghostnets website says “Formerly known as the Carpentaria Ghost Nets Programme, GhostNets Australia is an alliance of 22 indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia across the three states of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.  The programme was established in 2004 with funding from the Australian Government. Since its inception the programme has supported Indigenous Rangers to remove over 7,500 ghost nets of varying sizes.  This has resulted in recovery of a proportion of the trapped wildlife, particularly marine turtles (52%), and the prevention of the ghost nets from returning to the sea, continuing their destructing life-cycle. Less than 10% of these nets have been attributed to Australian fisheries.”
And from Heidi’s website:
“In 2004 Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society was founded by Richard and Heidi Taylor. Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society is run as a non-profit organisation with the goals of:
– creating awareness in the community of marine environmental and conservation issues through marine environmental science projects; and
– proactively participating in and organising marine conservation projects which address marine conservation issues.”

The litter over the three days included 81 bags plus a lot of larger items. It weighed 1171 kg in total.
The roughly 50 volunteers on Monday covered a distance of 1.24km over about 2.5hrs.

piece of fibreglass at the Chili Beach cleanup 2011

piece of fibreglass at the Chili Beach cleanup 2011

We found an incredible variety of debris: cans, paddle pop sticks, foil, bottles of all sorts, plastic bag remnants, hard bits of plastic, polystyrene foam, shoes, bleach/cleaner  bottles, fishing paraphernalia, cigarette lighters, skincare bottles, toothbrushes, weather balloon foam and a huge piece of fibreglass from a yacht.

The  bleach bottles are used in some coral reefs to kill fish – they are thrown (full) into the water with slits cut into them  – and the bleach kills or stuns the fish for easy collection but unfortunately the coral gets killed in the process.

Some of the bits of foam collected were from weather balloons. In order to accurately forecast the weather, the Bureau of Meteorology sends up 2-4 weather balloons every day from  every office around Australia. The balloons have an almost 1 square metre piece of polystyrene foam with a silver lining for the radar, a large ballloon and at night 2 AA batteries. All of these drop back to earth and cause a huge problem as debris. I believe the Bureau of Meteorology is working to lessen the impact of weather balloons on the environment.