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The Gap Year Blog

Frontier's Madagascan Nurdle Hunt

29 Apr 2020 12:30 PM


More people have become aware of plastic pollution in recent times. It’s hard to miss information about it in documentaries and the media, which are both helping to educate people further.                                   

As we now know, plastic pollution can be found in oceans and coastlines all over the world. 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year, joining the 150 million tons that are already in the marine environment.

This pollution is very harmful to marine and terrestrial wildlife and ecosystems. In Madagascar, there is a vast amount of plastic pollution in its waters and on its beaches, largely due to debris washed in from the ocean. However, a large amount of this pollution is a direct effect of littering. As there is no legislation for acceptable disposal in Madagascar, locals and visitors often litter along the shore, which is then washed from Madagascan coastlines into the oceans.

Plastic pollution is categorized into things like water bottles, straws, polystyrene and small fragments of broken plastic. Importantly, one category often forgotten or not known about is nurdles. These are small plastic pellets that are used to make almost all our plastic products. Unfortunately, billions of these are lost due to mishandling of the bags they’re transported in, and they often escape into our oceans whilst in transit. This threatens marine ecosystems as the small pellets infiltrate habitats and are often mistaken for food.



Image credit: Yvonne O,  https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/take-part.html#know 



How have Frontier Madagascar been tackling plastic pollution?

Frontier carries out beach surveys along a section of the coastline in Nosy Be to collect data on pollution and take as much plastic off the beach as they can. In March this year, the Madagascar team joined ‘The Great Nurdle Hunt’ to survey and collect nurdles along the beach. The Hunt is a citizen science project, aiming to get people out onto their beaches to collect data on nurdles. These surveys from all over the world help to build a bigger picture of the extent and reach of nurdles, providing more information to the public, companies and governments around the globe.

Frontier’s surveys help to educate local people about the effects of coastal pollution on marine life. Completing ‘The Great Nurdle Hunt’ was a great way to further their interest and build on their knowledge. Furthermore, the plastic pollution Frontier collects from the beach is used in the eco bricks project. The plastic bottles collected are filled with plastic debris, including nurdles, to create eco bricks that can be used in construction around the village. This is a great way to show local people how of recycling waste can create building materials for sustainable development in the area.

Nurdles can be found on beaches all over the world. The next time you’re at the beach in the UK, have a look around and take nurdles and other plastic pollution you see off the beach to reduce its harm. Or, if you want to carry out beach cleans in a more tropical setting, join our Madagascar project!


By Abby Cox - Research and Operations Intern 

Frontier runs terrestrial and marine conservationcommunity and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!