The UN is seeking plans to help combat the pesky, unregulated microplastic known as nurdles that are killing marine life and harming the environment. Chances are you’ve probably seen nurdles at a beach, along a riverbank, or even just about anywhere. Nurdles are small, round, off-white, and about the size of a lentil.

Source: TED-Ed/Youtube

A nurdle is a small, lightweight plastic pellet that is the basic building block of nearly all plastic products. Nurdles are produced from natural gas or oil and shipped to plastic factories around the world. They are melted and poured into molds for things like water bottles, food packaging, auto parts, medical devices, and countless other products.

Now, maritime authorities are considering strict controls on the transportation of plastic pellets, also known as nurdles, after numerous spills around the world. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has asked pollution experts to examine what options there are to reduce “the environmental risk associated with the maritime transport of plastic pellets (nurdles)”.

Billions of nurdles pollute waterways every year because of accidental spills during the production and transportation of the tiny pieces. Environmental activists aren’t the only ones that want stricter rules. Insurance companies are also asking for stricter rules on shipping and storage because of the financial and environmental cost of the spills.

We use countless billions of nurdles every year, but many end up washing up on our shores. According to a comprehensive report about stopping ocean plastic pollution, researchers found that an estimated 200,000 metric tons of nurdles end up in oceans every year. The beads are so light, only about 20 milligrams each, that they easily can be carried with the wind. According to the Nurdle Hunt, nearly 230,000 tonnes of nurdles pollute our oceans every year, which is billions and billions of nurdles.

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