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Oct Is Nurdle Hunt Month on Oregon / Washington Coast And You Didn't Know

Published 10/11/21 at 5:26 PM PDT
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

Oct Is Nurdle Hunt Month on Oregon / Washington Coast And You Didn't Know

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(Oregon Coast) – Little do Pacific Northwest residents know, it is now the Great Nurdle Hunt Month on the Oregon coast and Washington coast. At least one NW environmental group is getting in on the act, and the international group behind the Great Nurdle Hunt is hoping more of the general beach-going populace joins in. (Photo courtesy Fidra - showing the rounded bits known as nurdles next to a Velella velella)

What are nurdles? They are a form of the microplastics we see in great abundance on the Oregon and Washington coasts, but a rather singular type. They're small plastic pellets used in manufacturing everything else made of plastic, from water bottles to auto parts. Essentially, they are the raw material that's used for the plastic industry, which has a strong presence here in Oregon.

The difference between them is that they are smooth and rounded, not angular or jagged like much of the microplastics we find. Thus this month-long event is not a garbage pickup as much as it is a count: the group needs a count of these nurdles and not other kinds of plastics. See their ID page.

CoastWatch recently issued a request for its members to become part of the hunt. Fidra, an environmental charity based in East Lothian, Scotland, is the group behind the event, and it proclaimed October the Great Nurdle Hunt month, issuing challenges to those around the world to take part and dig in. It all ends on October 31, so Fidra can present its findings to a major environmental conference in November.

The idea is to go out on a stretch of beach and count the number of nurdles you find, then report them back to the Nurdle website. Fidra told Oregon Coast Beach Connection they hope other residents in the area get involved and even send photos to the group via the link here.

Courtesy Newport chapter of Surfrider Foundation: major plastic events like this sometimes occur in the Newport area

All this began on October 1, but the public can chime in with count findings anytime after the nurdle hunt month is done as well.

Megan Kirton is Project Officer with Fidra's headquarters in Scotland, and she said it's important for those who love beaches anywhere to take part wherever they are around the world, but the coastlines of Washington and Oregon have quite a few reporting holes.

“So, firstly the great global nurdle hunt is looking to map nurdle pollution all over the world to illustrate the extent of the issue, and looking at the Oregon coast there are a few gaps down that coastline on our map where we haven't had data collected before, so it would be really interesting for us to know what the nurdle pollution is like there,” Kirton told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

Indeed there are only a handfull of spots on the Oregon coast with data: a couple along the Three Capes Tour and a few just north of Newport. There is absolutely nothing on the south coast. On the Washington coast, nurdle hunts appear to have only taken place in one spot well north of Aberdeen.

The results will then get handed to the COP26 event, which is part of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland in early November.

“It would also be great if you could ask for photos from your nurdle hunters, as we don't have many from that area,” Kirton said. “This year, we are wanting the great global nurdle hunt to be bigger and better than ever because we are presenting the results of this year's hunt at COP26 in November. This will be such an important opportunity to get pellet pollution on the agenda of international decision makers, so we want to present as much data and photos of nurdle pollution all over the world to demonstrate the extent of the issue.”

Plastic pollution is an increasingly detrimental issue around the world, harming ocean and shoreline wildlife and causing a variety of other issues. Marine animals and birds regularly digest the tiny pieces and die because of it.

Data from the hunts along the Oregon and Washington coastlines then get passed on to other organizations that work more directly with the United States, she said. Among them are As You Sow, a California-based group that deals with environmental issues such as plastics as well as environmental racism issues.

“So it's really important we get data collected in all areas of the U.S. to build evidence of this issue, maintain public pressure which organizations can then use to show industry and government that they must take action,” Kirton said.

Taking part in this nurdle hunt is extremely simple, and it's likely not a terribly time-consuming activity for northwest beachgoers. Fidra's nurdle site has plenty of tips and helpful information.

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Courtesy Newport chapter of Surfrider Foundation

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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