David Boudinot shows the size of a plastic nurdle

David Boudinot shows the size of a plastic nurdle

Ideafest presenters perplexed by plastic nurdles

Ideafest runs from March 6 to 11 with more than 40 events mostly at UVic but also off campus.

Perplexed by the growing presence of nurdles on South Island beaches, a group of University of Victoria academics have made a few significant breakthroughs in a short matter of time.

With a pair of librarians at the lead, the group includes UVic geography and chemistry students who are intrigued by the tiny plastic pills which are shipped by boat and train around the world and are the base product of what becomes consumer plastic.

Speaking on the matter at Ideafest are David Boudinot, UVic business librarian, and Daniel Brendle-Moczuk, UVic geospatial librarian, at 2 p.m. Monday in the McPherson Library (room 129). Ideafest runs from March 6 to 11 with more than 40 events mostly at UVic but also off campus.

Through some basic testing, the chemistry students were able to establish what type of plastic nurdles are showing up on Oak Bay’s Willows Beach as well as several Saanich beaches such as Cadboro Bay and Ten Mile Point, Boudinot said.

Most importantly, they were also able to establish what the plastic nurdles are not, which is from a famous 2012 sea freighter spill in Hong Kong that released 150,000 kilograms of nurdles into the ocean. Nurdles from that spill have shown up in England, and speculation was they had made it here too.

“We learned the pellets from the Hong Kong spill were polypropylene pellets [No. 5],” Boudinot said. “We are finding polyethylene [No. 1 and 2] on our beaches.”

That means some are possibly coming from Joffre, Alta., home of Nova Chemicals.

“It’s possible that the spills are happening all the time in small instances the same as small gas or oil leaks,” Boudinot said. “For example, if they get into a city’s storm drain, they actually float through it and make their way to the ocean because stormwater systems are designed to filter out heavy items.”

The risk with the nurdles, which are less than one millimetre in width, is how they make their way into the food chain. For starters, they look a lot like fish roe.

“Nurdles aren’t [just] a Pacific Ocean problem, it’s in all of the oceans and it brings into question our societal dependence on plastic,” Boudinot said.

Boudinot came across the nurdle situation after volunteering on a regular beach cleanup organized the Vancouver Island chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. He became so taken with the amount of plastic at Willows, he can’t take his two children to the beach without at least doing a two-minute beach clean, a growing movement popular in England with its own social media hashtag.

During the group’s observation visits they used a 10-litre pail as a sample. Boudinot then spends up to a half an hour at a time sifting the nurdles and other plastic through three different-sized homemade screens.

View the full Ideafest schedule here.

 

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

Just Posted

Fire crews respond to the 3500-block of Blanshard Street in Saanich on April 16. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: Saanich fire crews close road over smoking underground electrical equipment

Police diverting traffic as Vernon Avenue closed to all through traffic

The District of Saanich announced April 12 that the Cedar Hill Golf Course clubhouse would remain closed for at least six months for repairs after a flood on Feb. 14 caused by faulty sprinklers. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Faulty sprinklers to blame for second Cedar Hill Golf Course clubhouse closure in just over a year

Saanich facility facing six-month shutdown for flood repairs, course not impacted

A weekend of sunny skies may have Victoria breaking temperature records, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Temperature records eyed for Victoria with sunny weekend forcast

Victoria hit the highest April 14 temperature since 1926 on Wednesday

Smoke is visible from the Trans-Canada Highway, April 16 around 12:15 p.m. (Black Press Media photo)
UPDATED: Saanich fire crews truck in water as hog fuel fire smoulders

No injuries reported following fire at greenhouse near Burnside West and Prospect Lake roads

A man accused of sexual assault has resigned as a coach at Castaway Wanderers Rugby Club and has had his employment suspended at The Local. (Google Streetview/Screenshot)
Rugby coach resigns, is suspended from Victoria restaurant following sexual assault allegations

Social media page creates a safe space for survivors to share their stories

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after being recorded making comments to a DTES harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Sarah Blyth/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Police officer convicted of uttering threats under B.C. watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to civilian Sarah Blyth

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Nanaimo Clippers’ game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs slated for Thursday, April 15, has been postponed due to a “potential positive COVID-19 test result,” says the BCHL. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers COVID-19 test negative, team can practise and play

Junior A hockey team had suspended activities the day before out of ‘abundance of caution’

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)

Most Read