Nurdles, or small plastic granules, are a massive source of plastic pollution worldwide. After the MSC Zoe container spill last January, this global problem cropped up around the North Sea beaches and the Wadden Islands. At Schiermonnikoog, about 70 percent of the plastic spheres were cleared out by last spring, but the remaining 30 percent of polluted areas have now been located by a Frisian student, reports Omrop Fryslan.
Finding the hotspots
Jan Willem Graal, who studies at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden, mapped nurdles along the entire North Sea beach at the northwestern side of the island. On behalf of Natuurmonumenten (The Netherlands Society for the Preservation of Nature Monuments), he examined random samples and discovered the areas with the largest concentrations of plastic granules. A spot in the middle of the beach turned out to be the most polluted sample with 363 nurdles found on the 40 square centimetres surface. From the beach up towards the dunes, the situation was even worse.
No time to waste
Mayor of Schiermonnikoog, Ineke van Gent, is shocked by the findings: ‘It breaks your heart on the one hand, but it also makes you angry. Because when I see it, I think that the mess should just get out of here.’ The mayor already visited these locations with the Dutch Safety Board, so she expects them to include the shocking state of pollution in their final report. ‘So if these kinds of calamities happen again, the polluter must pay and must also clean up everything.’
Nevertheless, finding the exact location of the nurdle pollution calls for immediate action: clean-ups should be done as soon as possible because the grains can be dispersed by winds and water to other places during the storm season. However, it is not clear which method would be most effective. Relatively small tools like converted leaf blowers can be an option.
A long story
Standing at one of the hotspots, Natuurmonumenten coordinator Jan Willem Zwart looks at the problem with both feet on the ground: ‘I don’t have the illusion that we will get it completely clean. We can see it ourselves: plastic is everywhere. And it is still washed up every day and it is taken away by the sea again. If you do something, you have to do it carefully for a very long time, which is a heavy workload. So we shouldn’t spend more time discussing it, we must look at what the best practices are to get the island as clean as possible.’