Fixing the problem
We can’t prevent acute events such as a ship blowing up and sinking, but we can ensure that the protocols are in place to contain the fallout from the resulting pellet spillage. Perhaps more importantly, it is in our gift to address the chronic problem of more ‘run-of-the-mill’ pellet loss.
Calamitous though the X-Press Pearl spillage was, the tonnage of pellets discharged as a result of that one event is a drop in the ocean compared to the cumulative – and completely avoidable – the impact of the vast quantities of nurdles that are needlessly spilled on a daily, even hourly, basis.
Those drip-drip losses go completely unmonitored, their impact on marine species and ecosystems unquantified but undeniably detrimental, if not disastrous. The fact that the frequency of those everyday spills is unrecorded and their combined effect uncalculated does not make them any less harmful.
The cliché that prevention is better than cure has never been more apposite. Where plastic pellets are concerned, it is realistically the only option. As anyone who has ever tried stuffing beads back into a leaking bean bag will understand, it’s easier to put a genie back in the bottle than it is to clean up a nurdle spill at sea.
For the sake of our ocean and the myriad marine species it supports – from puffins and pufferfish to leatherbacks and lemon sharks – we need to stop polluting pellets from entering the environment in the first place. More secure packaging, better labelling, better handling practices and safer transportation would go a long way to achieving that goal. Surely that’s not too much to ask?