Campaigners fear a popular sandy beach in Bo’ness is in danger of being taken over by plastic pellets.
Volunteers collected over half a million of these nurdles in an eight-hour beach clean at Kinneil nature reserve, but made little impression with plastic still making up a major proportion of the sediment.
The beach clean was organised by environmental charity Fidra alongside Marine Conservation Society Scotland, both of whom share concerns over the impact this plastic pollution could have on seabirds and marine life.
Fidra’s project officer Madeleine Berg said: “With the Nurdling 9-5 event, we wanted to get a better idea of how many pellets were on a highly polluted beach. Although we collected nurdles all day, we barely scratched the surface.”
The pellets are raw materials from the plastic industry and are used to make everyday products. They are easily spilled during handling and, if not cleaned up, they can end up down drains, in waterways and at sea. Environmentalists fear nurdles can be mistaken for food by animals such as fish and seabirds. Like other microplastic, they can disturb normal feeding, affect growth and nutrition.
The pellets also pick up and concentrate toxic chemicals from pollution in seawater, which poses a further threat to animals that eat them or feed nearby.
The Great Nurdle Hunt helps to raise awareness of the problem directly with industry and decision makers and environmentalists are campaigning to have tighter legislation at source.
Some companies based around the Forth, including Ineos, have signed up to a voluntary initiative called Operation Clean Sweep, designed to prevent plastic waste from entering the marine environment.
MSP for Falkirk East, Angus MacDonald, who has helped with beach-cleans, said: “I’m pleased industry representatives in my constituency have acknowledged the issue, however it is clear legislation must be seriously considered to ensure the handling of plastic pellets at all stages is properly monitored and controlled.”