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

BREAKING: Pat Bay Highway blockade underway

About 80 people blocking major highway

Central Saanich Police prepared for afternoon shut-down of Highway 17

Sgt. Paul Brailey questions efficacy of protest

Saanich students get on board Walking School Bus

Rogers Elementary students led by teachers and Saanich Police in new initiative

City of Langford rebrands, announces several projects

‘Langford, where it all happens’ is the City’s new slogan

VIDEO: ‘Reconciliation is dead’: Wet’suwet’en supporters hold press conference on steps of legislature

Supporters say they will continue ongoing action to hold government accountable

WATCH: Sooke’s top stories

A round-up of this week’s top stories

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Donations pour in for family who lost father, son in fatal crash on B.C. highway

Mike Cochlin and sons Liam and Quinn were travelling on Highway 5A

Vancouver Island RCMP officer assaulted during traffic stop

On Feb. 21, a member of the Comox Valley RCMP was assaulted… Continue reading

B.C. man who pulled a gun on off-duty cop gets two years in prison

Encounter also led police to a home where 100 guns and explosives were found

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

COLUMN: Forestry no longer close to top of B.C.’s economy

Our reactions to a forestry downturn reflect the past, not the present

Most Read