Plastic resin pellets also known as pre production plastic or nurdles are the raw material which is heated and chemically treated to mould plastic goods. Huge volumes of plastic resin pellets are produced and shipped around the world each year. An alarming number of these pellets are constantly being lost to the marine environment both from direct cargo loss at sea and from spillage around factories and transport routes on land. A large proportion of these land spillages eventually find their way into drainage systems and out to sea. At sea pellets are circulated throughout the world's oceans.
Plastic Resin Pellets are being found on beaches all over the world. Being extrememly small and resembling fish eggs, they have the potential to be ingested by marine animals and seabirds in enormous numbers. The Pellet Alert Project invites volunteers to monitor and report occurances of Plastic Resin Pellets on their coastline, we also receive samples of pellets which are sent on for analsysis of toxins that the pellets may have absorbed while in the ocean environment.
Operation Clean Sweep® Australia launched during 2016. An industry program developed in the US, and adapted for the Australian industry with funding from the Victorian Government's Litter Hotspot Program and support from the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association & Tangaroa Blue Foundation.
The Operation Clean Sweep® program looks at all the places during processing and transport that plastic resin pellets (AKA nurdles) can be lost and cost-effective strategies that would prevent that loss from occurring.
We are excited to annouce industry leaders (Dow Chemical, Qenos and Co-Ex Films) have taken the pledge to adopt Operation Clean Sweep® and help reduce the chance of plastic resin pellets escaping into the enviornment from their facilities. We urge everyone in the plastics industry to check out this program - it's free, it saves companies money, creates a safer workplace, helps avoid fines and helps to protect our waterways and ocean!
Microplastics have had a recent media upsurge with the Environment Minister Greg Hunt poised to follow in the USA’s footsteps and ban microbeads in beauty products. Also in the microplastics category are plastic resin pellets which are the raw material from which all moulded plastic items are made; they are slightly larger than microplastics (2-6mm), but just as dangerous to wildlife. They are mistaken for food and ingested and cannot pass through digestive tracts, leading to malnutrition and starvation.
When plastic pellets are spilt they are easily washed into stormwater drains which transport them to our natural waterways and oceans. In order to combat this issue an innovative program called Operation Clean Sweep® is being trialled in the Port Phillip Bay Catchment.
The issue of plastic resin pellet pollution has been well documented. With the help of volunteers from the Tangaroa Blue Foundation and other organisations we have developed a large dataset which shows where these pellets have been found around Australia. We have now started to implement a Source Reduction Plan for pellets in Melbourne.
We are introducing a new and innovative program for the plastics industry in the Port Phillip Bay Catchment called OPERATION CLEAN SWEEP ®. The program offers simple, cost effective solutions to achieve zero pellet loss. If successful the program will become national following in the footsteps of the USA, Canada, Europe and New Zealand.
Source reduction plans were implemented following the identification of plastics manufacturers that were releasing plastic resin pellets to the environment in WA. The Department of Environment Regulation issued field notices to two manufacturers in 2013. One facility installed a stormwater filter and the other a barrier around the edge of their premises that was able to catch plastic resin pellets. This shows that the leaching of plastic resin pellets into the environment can be addressed at the source legally, and there are easy solutions that facilities can implement to address this issue.
Tangaroa Blue recently visited factories that use plastic resin pellets for manufacturing in each major Australian city. What we found explained why 90% of Australian beaches that we survey have plastic resin pellet pollution on them. More than 75% of the factories we visited had pellets leaching out from around the factories, into nearby properties and stormwater drains. It is clear that any time it rains these pellets are entering rivers and creeks and ultimately into the oceans from factories around the country.