Frustration mounts over thousands of plastic 'nurdles' at Wellington beach

Nurdles found at Evans Bay.
Nurdles found at Evans Bay. Photo credit: Supplied

Frustration is mounting over thousands of plastic 'nurdles' that are consistently being found by clean-up crews at a Wellington beach.

Sea Shepherd Wellington co-ordinator Many Coleman says she's been part of the monthly Evans Bay beach clean-up for six years, and the problem with plastic waste "is getting worse and worse and worse, it's not getting any better".

She says plastic company IML Plastics is one of a few companies in the area who are are responsible for 'nurdles' or tiny plastic pallets turning up on the beach.

Ms Coleman said her clean-up group has gone to IML's site a few times and seen plastic waste "spilled all over the property". On one occasion she saw a forklift carrying a ripped bag of plastic and letting it spill out everywhere.

"It's horrible to sweep it up, it would be difficult for them but I think they just sweep it out of the way... out of sight, out of mind," she says.

But for the volunteers who turn up once a month at Evans Bay, it's a very real and devastating problem with thousands of nurdles consistently littered across the beach.

"There's tens of thousands, you keep digging down and then there's millions... it's really deflating," says Ms Coleman.

She believes what the clean-up crews are finding is "a tiny amount compared to the stuff that washes out into the ocean".

Volunteers turn up for a clean up at Evans Bay once a month.
Volunteers turn up for a clean up at Evans Bay once a month. Photo credit: Supplied
Photographs taken of a spill at IML Plastics.
Photographs taken of a spill at IML Plastics. Photo credit: Supplied

"If someone dumps rubbish somewhere they'll get a fine... why is it not the same with a company doing this?" she asks, saying the Hutt City Council should monitor businesses like IML Plastics more closely.

IML Plastics manager Richard Jorgensen acknowledged that the company wasn't meeting its own standards or the standards the community expect when it comes to cleaning up waste, but stressed it was one of a number of plastic companies in the region.

"We don't expect a free ride and people should hold us to account... we are happy to implement whatever procedures are required to do that," he said.

"No one here at IML, including myself, wants to see waste going into the sea."

He said every few weeks plastic goods become damaged during transportation or during the loading and unloading process, which causes small plastic nurdles to fall out.

They are cleaned up promptly, but sometimes they're not able to collect 100 percent of the small nurdles, which measure roughly 2mm in diameter.

He said the company is introducing more training on its spillage control policy and is sealing a currently unsealed section of its site to allow for more effective clean-ups, and it's working with the council to install filters in two stormwater drains that are adjacent to its site.

He says this will "capture the 1 percent that we probably can't capture during the cleanup process".

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