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A nurdle, also known as a pre-production plastic pellet, is a plastic pellet smaller than 5mm used in plastics industry in the manufacture of plastic products. Nurdles are microplastics and are made primarily from polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and other plastics or synthetic resins. Nurdles are the building block, via plastic extrusion or injection molding, for items for everyday life including plastic water bottles, containers, and bags.
Main article: Plastic resin pellet pollution
These plastics can be seen washing up on shorelines of rivers, beaches, and lakes across the world. The earliest date that nurdles recorded being seen on beaches was around the 1970s but have been recorded as being used earlier around the 1940s and 50s. The pellets find their way into the ocean in a multitude of ways, including accidental spills in transport, and move quickly as they are small enough to be blown around by wind and also float on water. As nurdles stay out in the world they continue to break down and get even smaller than previously recorded.
Nurdles can disrupt many ecosystems, as some birds and fish may confuse these plastic pieces for their food and can end up starving because of how much plastic they have eaten. Nurdles can absorb toxins and other harmful chemicals, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), that can be eaten by fish, which can poison them or get caught for human consumption. Biofilms can also form on nurdles that hold pathogens harmful to people.
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- "What are Nurdles - Why You Need to Worry About Them". Environmental Nonprofit Organization. 2020-09-21. Retrieved 2021-11-13.
- "What's a Nurdle?". Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 2018-01-22. Retrieved 2021-11-13.
- "Nurdle Patrol - Home". nurdlepatrol.org. Retrieved 2021-11-08.
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