Nurdles, the colloquial term for “pre-production plastic pellets” can be made of polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride and other plastics.
“The sinking of the X-Press Pearl – and spill of chemical products and plastic pellets into the seas of Sri Lanka – caused untold damage to marine life and destroyed local livelihoods,” says Hemantha Withanage, director of the Centre for Environmental Justice in Sri Lanka.
Nurdles are the little-known building block for all our plastic products. Often mistaken for food by seabirds, fish and other wildlife, they are the second-largest source of micro-pollutants in the ocean.
Classifying nurdles as hazardous – as is the case for explosives, flammable liquids and other environmentally harmful substances – would make them subject to strict conditions for shipping.
“They must be stored below deck, in more robust packaging with clear labelling. They would also be subject to disaster-response protocols that can, if implemented in the event of an emergency, prevent the worst environmental impacts.”Tanya Cox, marine plastic specialist at the conservation charity Flora & Fauna International.
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