(Bloomberg) — Environmentalists have identified another threat to the planet. It’s called a nurdle.

Nurdles are tiny pellets of plastic resin no bigger than a pencil eraser that manufacturers transform into packaging, plastic straws, water bottles and other typical targets of environmental action.

But the nurdles themselves are also a problem. Billions of them are lost from production and supply chains every year, spilling or washing into waterways. A U.K. environmental consultancy estimated last year that preproduction plastic pellets are the second-largest source of micro-plastic pollution in water, after micro-fragments from vehicle tires.

Now, shareholder advocacy group As You Sow has filed resolutions with Chevron Corp., DowDupont Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Phillips 66 asking them to disclose how many nurdles escape their production process each year, and how effectively they’re addressing the issue.

As justification, the group cites estimates of high financial and environmental costs associated with plastic pollution, and recent international efforts to address it. These include a United Nations conference in Nairobi and a U.S. law banning micro-plastics used in cosmetics.

“We’ve had information over the last couple of years from the plastics industry, that they’re taking this all seriously,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow. The companies say they have set goals to recycle plastics, he said. “This is really more of a bellwether moment, as to whether they’re serious … if they’re willing to come out, warts and all, and say ‘here’s the situation. Here are the spills that are out there. Here’s what we’re doing about them.’”

The companies already participate in Operation Clean Sweep, a voluntary industry-backed effort to keep plastics out of the ocean. As part of an initiative called OCS Blue, members are asked to share data confidentially with the trade group about the volume of resin pellets shipped or received, spilled, recovered and recycled, along with any efforts to eliminate leakage.

Jacob Barron, a spokesman for the Plastic Industry Association (PIA), an industry lobby, said “the provision about confidentiality is included to eliminate competitive concerns that might prevent a company from disclosing this information.” The American Chemistry Council, another lobbying group, co-sponsors OCS along with the PIA. In May, it announced long-term industry-wide goals to recover and recycle plastic packaging, and for all U.S. manufacturers to join OCS Blue by 2020.

There’s limited information on the extent of this kind of plastic pollution by U.S. companies, and global researchers have struggled to make an …read more

Source:: Time – Science

      

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Environmentalists Say Tiny Plastic ‘Nurdles’ Threaten Earth’s Oceans

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