[GUEST BLOG] Nurdles on SA’s Beaches

Nurdles are lentil-shaped pieces of plastic. They are re-melted and moulded in factories to make a wide range of plastic products. In themselves they are not harmful. However, the bad news is that, over time in the ocean, they absorb pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides, which are harmful to both marine life and humans if consumed.


Nurdles never disintegrate but merely break down into smaller and smaller pieces which are then eaten by many marine animals which cannot differentiate between their food and the minute pieces of plastic mixed up in their food.

This is especially true for the filter feeders that sieve their food out of the water.  Animals ranging in size from anchovies and sardines to enormous humpback whales and whale sharks are all filter feeders.

Since the spill on 10 October 2017, thousands of concerned people have spent time on the beaches and estuary shores collecting and removing these nurdles along almost the entire South African coastline from Kosi Bay in the north to Mossel Bay in the south.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has officially appointed Drizit (a company specialising in pollution control) to collect the nurdles. The DEA is mobilising their Working for the Coasts teams and numerous NGOs have joined forces.  Groups and individuals who care about the oceans have come together and responded to our initial call to action on a scale I have never seen before in my entire career as a marine conservationist.

Not only have people participated in the collection of nurdles, they have started conversations connecting the amount of disposable plastics we use and the production of nurdles.  We need to reduce our wasteful use of plastics.

To everyone who is going to be spending time on the beach this summer, please take a net, sieve, spades and buckets along with you and collect as many nurdles and other litter as you can. Not only is it good for the ocean,  it’s a fun.  When it’s time to leave the beach please take your nurdles with you and dispose of them at official nurdle drop off points. A list of these facilities can be found below or on The South African Association for Marine Biological Research’s website where you can also find out more about the impact and what you can do to help.

Remember, the wind often blows on the beach and you don’t want the results of your collection to land up back on the beach.

Current Nurdles Drop Off Points

These are the organisations and businesses that have offered to act as nurdle drop-off points:

KZN South Coast:

  • Outspan Inn, Port St Johns
  • Offshore Africa, Port St Johns
  • M&R Mechanical Workshop, Southport
  • Buccaneers, St Michaels
  • Aliwal Dive Centre, Umkomaas


  • Durban Undersea Club, Vetch’s Beach
  • uShaka Marine World – ticket office
  • Afro’s Chicken, South Beach
  • Circus Circus, North Beach
  • Lifeguards, Wedge Beach
  • California Dreaming restaurant, Central Beach

KZN North Coast:

  • Umhlanga Rocks Surf Lifesaving Club, Umhlanga
  • Tsogo Sun Cabana Beach Resort, Umhlanga – towel kiosk
  • Zinkwazi Skiboat Club, Zinkwazi
  • Umlalazi Nature Reserve entrance gate, Mtunzini

Eastern Cape:

  • East London Aquarium, East London
  • Bayworld, Port Elizabeth

Western Cape:

  • Shark Lab Aquarium,  Mossel Bay
  • Cyber South, Dana Bay
  • Die Ou Pastorie, Grootbrak
  • Koffie Stories, Gourits
  • Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town