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Nurdles - big threat for marinelife

Published: May 9, 2023 - 11:01
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 02:06
Nurdles – big threat for marinelife

Nurdles there is more than what meets the eye, even intertwined within the sand grains on a beach.

The detrimental plastics are estimated to make up over 5 billion kilograms that float away in our oceans.

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Out of these, over 4 million kilograms occupy the surface of the Mediterranean Sea alone. Thus, it is safe to assume that most of the microplastics on land, were brought up by wave action.

Microplastics are fragments of plastic that can be either eroded or manufactured. They are less than 5mm in size and can be found almost everywhere. One of the most significant sources of plastic pollution is nurdles, which are small plastic pellets used as raw materials to create various plastic products. Nurdles are practically indestructible and survive under all sorts of conditions posing threats to wildlife. Thus, initiatives to clean up our sandy beaches are crucial to remove these fatal pollutants.

sand sifting beach clean up malta
Sand Sifting, Malta. copyrights: Żibel

Fact that the Maltese islands are surrounded by a relatively deep sea, it is likely that a significant amount of plastic waste washes up on shore.

The NGO (non-governmental organization) Żibel has been cleaning the sea surrounding the islands since 2017 by organizing public clean-up events. Żibel conducted a sand sifting clean-up just last Saturday the 6th of May 2023. The NGO was funded by a local company that distributes beverages, ‘M. Demajo Wines & Spirits’ and together a sand sifting event was organized.

Sand sifting involves refining the sand by passing it through a metal mesh, and removing objects larger than a grain of sand. During the event, volunteers from all around the island showed up to assist in the event. Working in groups of three, each individual took turns shoveling sand into a large mesh bucket, which was held by the other two participants. The bucket was then shaken to allow the sand to drop back onto the ground, leaving any debris trapped in the mesh. To further refine the debris, a three-layered mesh apparatus was used to group the remaining pieces by size. This process allowed for the efficient removal of larger debris and helped to uncover smaller microplastic fragments nurdles that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

During the final stage of the cleaning process, plastic pieces were removed from the debris using a three-layer sieve. The remaining objects that passed through the sieve were then placed in a large tub of water. Upon inspection, plastic fragments were observed floating on the surface while the non-plastic materials sank to the bottom of the tub. The microplastics were carefully collected and placed in a separate container designated for their proper disposal. This approach allowed for the effective removal of harmful microplastics while minimizing the impact on other materials in the debris.

After completing a challenging sand-sifting task, the volunteers were treated to some well-deserved refreshments provided by the funding organization. These events serve as a reminder that every bit of effort counts, as we work to uncover the hidden dangers that lurk beneath our feet. By taking action to address issues like plastic pollution, we can make a meaningful difference in protecting our environment.

For more photos please check out the gallery: photo: Alex Turnbul

Featured image: Copyright  Centre for Environmental Justice, Sri Lanka


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About author

Jasmine Mifsud
Jasmine Mifsud, who hails from Malta, has an incredible interest in the water surrounding the small island. Her passion for the sea is not surprising, since as a little girl, her biggest dream was to explore the oceans. This ambition created its own pathway as every decision she ever made led her to become an influential woman who decided to create a life for herself instead of living in someone else’s shoes. As time flew by, she became more adventurous and curious about our blue planet. She specialized in environmental sciences and took a tangent route into maritime archaeology, which she considers to be one of her best decisions to date. Throughout her journey, she has built friendships with some of the most inspiring divers globally, all of whom share unique experiences and stories worth listening to. As a young woman in the industry, her journey has only just begun.
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