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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Using Your Nurdle (for the Week of May 10, 2009)

May 10, 2009

Q. Dear Twig: What's a nurdle?


A. Nothing. What's a nurdle with you?

Q. I'm thinking that isn't funny.

A. You're right. OK. This. Nurdle: a small, round plastic pellet the size and shape of a pea, more or less. If you take a pea, hold it in your hand, look at it closely, and imagine it's made out of plastic, that's a nurdle. Factories make them by the billions and billions. Ships and trucks haul them by the billions and billions. Other, different factories use them by the billions and billions to make plastic things. They melt and mold the nurdles into just about any sort of plastic thing you can think of: pens, yogurt cups, cell phone covers, toys involving large groups of small domestic animals, and so on.

Q. So?

A. So, I'm out of room. More next time!


P.S. "Plastic resin pellets" and "mermaid tears" (when littered in oceans) are other nurdle names.



Nurdles were mentioned just briefly last week when we talked about plastic pollution in the oceans (

Sources included "Floating Plastic in the Kuroshio Current Area, Western North Pacific Ocean," Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2007; "Plastics ‘Poisoning World's Seas,' " BBC News, 2006; and "Lost at Sea: Where is All the Plastic?," Science, 2004.

See what nurdles look like at Wikipedia's "nurdle" entry and at the "Pelagic Plastics" Web page of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation,


About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" is a weekly feature for children (ages 9+; 4th grade reading level) about science, nature, farming and the environment. Online at

Brought to you by your scientific friends at The Ohio State University — specifically, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) ( and with Ohio State University Extension ( OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Written by Kurt Knebusch of OARDC and OSU Extension. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt at CommTech, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691;; (330) 263-3776.


Kurt Knebusch