One Size Fits All, Not! Shape, Size, and Color of Nurdles


When you think of plastic pellets (nurdles), you might think of the typical small, round, white bead. Actually, there are many shapes, sizes, and colors. The shapes and sizes of the nurdles comes from the metal extrusion plate that melted plastic is pushed through like spaghetti before being cooled and chopped into its shape and size. Shapes can be round, flat, square, cylindrical, and various other shapes. The colors can vary as well, with some pellets starting out as opaque and turning yellow with time as it sits in the sun. Other nurdles are colored with pigment or dye depending on what the end product will be once the pellet is melted down and formed into its final shape. This is important to know when conducting Nurdle Patrol surveys so that you can tell the difference between what is a nurdle and what is not. Happy hunting!

For more technical information on how plastic is colored, read this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_colorant ; Want to know more about plastic extrusion? Read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastics_extrusion

What is a nurdle? It's a lentil size piece of plastic that is the raw material to almost everything made of plastic. Once these nurdles are made, they are shipped all over the world to make everyday plastic products. The nurdles are escaping to the environment at the manufacturing facility when loading/unloading to rail-car or trucks, fall out during transportation, and during spills at sea and on land. The biggest impact is to fish and wildlife that eat the nurdles since they look like a natural food source. Fish, birds, and sea turtles have all been documented as eating these plastics. The nurdles also absorb harmful chemicals such as PCBs and PAHs that are known to impact animals negatively. Nurdle Patrol is trying to find the source of the pellets by counting concentrations on our beaches, bay shorelines, and rivers. Check out the map at www.nurdlepatrol.org to see what data has been collected in your area, and where data still needs to be gathered. Come join us, use your phone, and pick up plastic pellets at your favorite beach!

Have questions, want to become a partner, or want to support the cause? Contact jace@utexas.edu