Plastic nurdles among the pollution on Willows Beach from 2016. (Surfrider Canada Image)

Mysterious nurdle pellets washing up on Vancouver Island traced back to Fraser River source

Pre-consumer plastic pellets lead UVic researcher, Surfrider call on province for enforcement

UVic librarian David Boudinot is not a marine scientist but it doesn’t take one to connect the dots that the plastic nurdle pellets washing up on Willows Beach can be traced back to the Fraser River and a potential source at Annacis Island.

Boudinot is a volunteer with Surfrider Canada and has helped out on dozens of beach clean ups since he joined them a few years ago. During those clean ups Boudinot learned about the nurdles. When he contacted one manufacturer he was told they floated here from a 2012 Hong Kong spill, which he doesn’t believe.

Curiosity about the pellets and how they got there led Boudinot to research the plastics industry alongside a colleague.

“I felt compelled to continue monitoring beaches in B.C. for spills because I want to see if the problem of plastic pellets in our environment gets better or worse over time,” Boudinot said.

There are several types of nurdles, which is a term for pre-consumer plastic polymer pellets made from high density PolyEthylene, low density PolyEthylene and Polypropylene. They are melted into plastic products such as bags, bottles, containers, packaging, straws, and other plastic items.

READ MORE: UVic librarian perplexed by plastic nurdles

He became more concerned when he found pellets were entering storm drains by manufacturing plants near the Fraser River and showing up at outfalls, and as far as Vancouver Island.

“The plastic pellets definitely seemed fresher on the Fraser than some of the old weathered ones we have found on Vancouver Island,” Boudinot said. “Then we started looking at the parking lots of plastic manufacturing facilities and it is obvious where these pellets are entering the Fraser River.”

On Friday Boudinot challenged the Ministry of Environment on harsher regulation and penalties for companies who create and ship the nurdles.

In a statement provided by Ministry of Environment spokesperson Tyler Hooper said: “The ministry would like to thank Surfrider for bringing this to our attention. The province is working to reduce plastics in the marine environment.”

Discharge of pollution to the environment is prohibited under the Environmental Management Act and the ministry said it will be looking into these concerns and determining appropriate next steps.

Witnesses to pollution such as the nurdles can call the 24-hour Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277 or online at https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp/.

“Now that I understand how the spills are happening, I want to share what the problem is along with some easy solutions, like cleaning up spills when they happen, and requiring the use of storm drain covers like you would see at a construction site,” Boudinot said. “There is no reason a plastic pellet should be in a storm drain. And we cannot recycle our way out of this particular type of pollution.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cyclists see potential and pitfalls in Sooke infrastructure

Getting from Sooke Road to Galloping Goose Trail a challenge for bike riders

UPDATED: Bear spotted walking on sidewalk near Uptown

Urban sightings prompt warnings from Saanich Police Department

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP look for Lochside Drive robbery suspect

One man arrested with a second man on the run following May 1 robbery

Sooke Fall Fair postponed until 2021

Organizers hope to still hold some form of competitions

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate target on hold at 0.25%

Central bank now expects GDP to decline between 10 and 20 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2019

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Racist incident shocks Vancouver Island First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP investigating after video shows truck wheeling through Tseshaht territory

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit was en route as whale broke free from prawn trap line

Most Read