Nurdle Patrol on the hunt for plastic pellets

Tiny, plastic pellets are washing ashore in Texas beaches by the thousands, and now they're showing up on Bay Area beaches. 

“Nurdles are very, very small,” said Maya Burke, of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, who recently found two nurdles at a beach near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

The lentil-sized plastic beads are used to make larger plastic products.

After discovering thousands of nurdles along the Texas shoreline, Jace Tunnell, the reserve director of the Marine Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, created a citizen science project called the Nurdle Patrol in 2018.

Tunnell said the group of volunteers, scattered across the Gulf Coast, have collected about 80,000 nurdles since November.

They report their findings through the Nurdle Patrol Facebook group.

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“People are going out, and within a 10 minute period they can find up to 200 of them,” said Tunnell.

Based on recent collections, Tunnell says the highest concentrations of nurdles are near manufacturing plants or factories.

“Nobody was looking at how many there were, how far they had spread," said Tunnell. "Nobody had any plans to try to clean them up, or find who spilled them.”

The Nurdle Patrol hopes to collect more data and trace the source of their pollution.

"We need to be cognizant about how we choose to tread on this planet,” said Burke.