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Microplastic pollution ‘requires industry and governments to work in partnership’

A Zero Waste Scotland report targeting plastic pellet pollution and ways to reduce its impact upon our coast and waterways has been published.

18 Mar 20

Commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Plastic Pellet Loss Steering Group, the research into nurdles, the common name for plastic pellets, calls for industry, governments and other stakeholders to work together to protect the environment.

The report, Preventing plastic pollution from pellet loss, sets out a system where supply chains are handling pellets responsibly and effectively to prevent pollution caused by their loss to the environment.

The release coincides with the Great Global Nurdle Hunt, an event held by the Scottish charity Fidra that records nurdles found on beaches and coastal areas worldwide. Previous nurdle hunts in the UK found the most pellets on a small beach in North Queensferry in Fife.

Sarah Archer, Zero Waste Scotland plastics policy analyst, said: “This is a key step towards putting in place a robust solution that will prevent pollution by plastic pellets in Scotland and beyond.

“It shows what can be achieved when organisations with a range of experiences and expertise work together to find effective, feasible and affordable ways to tackle a problem.”

Nurdles are the pellets used to make virtually all our plastic products. They can easily be spilt during production, manufacturing or transport and if they aren’t cleaned up properly can go down drains and ultimately end up polluting our rivers and oceans.

Recommendations include using accredited auditors, developing standardised approaches and creating a register of compliant supply chain companies.

Ms Archer added: “The report proposes a system that will enable those companies handling plastic pellets to demonstrate they are handling pellets responsibly and communicate this. A key element of this system is the independent audits that will create the transparency needed to give everyone from industry and government to the public the confidence that this issue is being tackled.

“By sharing this report, we hope that further collaboration with industry and decision makers beyond our borders will mean a coordinated solution to prevent plastic pellet pollution globally can be developed. We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and the steering group to achieve this.”

Jasper Hamlet, senior project officer at Fidra, said: “The Great Nurdle Hunt illustrates the scale of this pollution problem, with people finding plastic pellets on beaches from Scotland to South Africa. The valuable data people collect on nurdles they find across the world, evidences the need for action from industry and government to prevent further plastic pollution. In Scotland this data is already having an impact.”

The Plastic Pellet Loss Steering Group, which comprises representatives from businesses, environmental organisations, regulators, standards organisations, officials and industry bodies, is due to submit its recommendations to Scottish Government Ministers in September 2020. In the interim, the steering group will continue to test, explore and seek feedback from industry on the proposed system. The group will also continue to encourage and engage with supply chains and other governments to develop a collaborative solution to preventing pellet loss from supply chains.

A copy of the summary report can be found here.

A copy of the full report can be found here.



Notes For Editors

Editor’s Notes:

Several environmental organisations have worked with volunteers to map the extent of the issue – including Fidra, a Scottish based NGO, which has created an online map showing the scale of the problem.

Members of the public can also help by joining or carrying out a ‘nurdle hunt’ on their local beach – see www.nurdlehunt.org.uk.

Fidra is running ‘the Great Global Nurdle Hunt’ from 13-22 March: https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/take-part/the-great-global-nurdle-hunt.html

We trust those organising events to follow the advice and guidance set up by the public health service and government around Coronavirus (COVID-19). We completely understand that this may mean hunting at a safe distance, in smaller groups, postponing events, or cancelling.

Nurdle hunts can be done at any time of year and entered at the website.


About Zero Waste Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland exists to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on where we can have the greatest impact on climate change. 

Using evidence and insight, our goal is to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy. 

We are a not-for-profit environmental organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund.

More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/. You can also keep up to date with the latest from Zero Waste Scotland via our social media channels - Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit our website or follow @scotgovESIF.

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