Q. Dear Twig: Why are we talking about nurdles?
A. Well, sometimes we spill them.
A. Well, there's a lot of them. Factories make something like 250 billion pounds of nurdles a year.
(Remember, nurdles are plastic pellets. They're melted, molded and made into plastic stuff.)
Since a single pound of nurdles has around 20,000 nurdles in it, 20,000 times 250 billion nurdles a year equals, if my math is right, 5,000,000,000,000,000 nurdles a year.
Q. Five quadrillion.
Q. Five quadrillion. That's how many nurdles that is.
A. Which ... that's a lot of nurdles. Next: So what?
P.S. We've made more than 1 billion tons of plastic in the past 50 years. Most of it's still around.
Most of the plastic we've made is still around because it doesn't biodegrade. It photodegrades — gets broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces — but still stays plastic. Just tinier and tinier bits of it.
Sources included The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (2007); "Plastic Resin Pellets as a Transport Medium for Toxic Chemicals in the Marine Environment" by a team of Japanese scientists in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, 2001; and "Polymers are Forever," an excerpt from The World Without Us in Orion magazine, May/June 2007. Weisman nurdles the number even higher at 5.2 quadrillion.
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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; email@example.com; (330) 263-3776.
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