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Nurdle Patrol looks for plastic pellets on Florida's beaches

Nurdles found on beach near Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Posted at 10:23 PM, May 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-20 08:40:05-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - People are searching for small pieces of plastic called nurdles on local beaches.

"Nurdles are very small. They're called pelletized plastics. They're smaller than your pinky finger tip. They're about the size of a lentil. They're typically melted down to make larger plastic products," said Maya Burke with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Maya Burke, a Science Policy Coordinator with Tampa Bay Estuary Program, found 2 nurdles on a beach near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

"I have been looking for nurdles since February of this year. We've been helping some of our partners with Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve," said Maya Burke.

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Burke said it is unclear how the plastic pellets got to our area.

"We've only found 2 in the whole state of Florida that have been documented as part of this effort," said said.

Burke said in September, millions of nurdles spilled in Texas and since them people in Texas have been finding them on beaches.

"Maybe they came from circulation, ocean currents from the spill in Texas. They're also used in day to day products like stuffed animals," said Burke.

Jace Tunnell, a marine scientist with the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute, said in Texas he easily finds nurdles.

"We are finding anywhere from 30 to over 200 in a 10-minute period. In some areas, we are finding over 1,000 in 10 minutes," he said.

Tunnell started a Facebook page called "Nurdle Patrol." Tunnell is asking people to report any nurdles they find on beaches.

"We're going to be in Florida next week. Our idea is that we're going to sample every 10 miles of the shoreline in Florida actually the entire Gulf Coast," Tunnell said.

The plastic pellets can be harmful to the environment. Wildlife may eat them thinking they are food.

"That can physically take up space in their stomachs so that takes up space that would otherwise be used for nutrition that keeps them alive," Burke said.

Tunnell asks if you locate any nurdles, take a photo and post them to the Nurdle Patrol Facebook Page.

"I figured nobody is sampling these, nobody was seeing how long they're going to be on the beach or how far they spread so that's why we started Nurdle Patrol," Tunnell said.