The massive, unregulated source of plastic pollution you’ve probably never heard of

Big Oil Sold the World on a Plastics Recycling Myth. It May be Too Late to Undo the Damage

A few weeks ago, my friend Brett Pogostin showed me a photograph of his girlfriend, Angie, taken on Padre Island National Seashore on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Post storm debris made up mostly of plastics and vegetation is scattered across the high tide line in Long Beach on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019.
 Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze—Getty Images

They had driven 200 miles from Houston to visit this 60-mile stretch of undeveloped barrier island, which reaches south from Corpus Christi, Texas, towards the Mexican border. But when they stopped and got out of their car, they found the shoreline littered with plastic—old diapers, water bottles, and plastic detergent jugs. Bathers had set up their blankets and umbrellas amid the trash, and children made sand castles between pieces of plastic junk. Brett and Angie got back in the car and drove close to 30 miles trying to find a stretch of unpolluted beach, and finally gave up. Brett took a photograph: Angie smiling beneath a gray sky, bits of plastic garbage mixed in the sand at her feet…READ ON

The massive, unregulated source of plastic pollution you’ve probably never heard of

On an overcast day in April, on the edge of Chalmette Battlefield, a few miles outside the city, Liz Marchio examined a pile of broken twigs and tree branches on the bank of the Mississippi River. “Usually I try to look — oh, there’s one,” said Marchio, a research associate for the Vertebrate Museum at Southeastern Louisiana University. She bent down to pick up something with a pinch of her thumb and forefinger and placed it in her palm for me to see.

A nurdle is a bead of pure plastic. It is the basic building block of almost all plastic products, like some sort of synthetic ore; their creators call them “pre-production plastic pellets” or “resins.” Every year, trillions of nurdles are produced from natural gas or oil, shipped to factories around the world.

The object in Marchio’s hand was small, round, and yellowish-white, about the size of a lentil. It looked like an egg, as if a fish or salamander or tadpole could come wriggling out of it. Marchio handed it to me and turned to flip over a tree branch floating in the water, where dozens more lay waiting underneath. She made a sound of disgust. We had come hunting, and we had quickly found our quarry: nurdles…READ ON

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