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By Laura Stec

Meet the Nurdles

Uploaded: Feb 16, 2019

Went to the coast a couple weeks ago to help Surfrider San Mateo clean up Venice Beach in Half Moon Bay. Wow – what a nice beach - can’t believe I haven’t been there before. Please forget I just told you about it.

I grab my bucket and gloves from the check-in table and head out for what I'm thinking is gonna be The Big Take.

I am going to fill up this bucket with more stuff, faster than anyone! Funny to see my competitive side kick in about garbage. At first there’s nothing to grab (volunteers already cleaned this part?) and the farther out I go, there's still is no trash. I mean none, zero, ziltch.


Turns out it was King Tides day, named when spring tides break exceptionally high. And that water was powerful; I know cuz’ I got in after the cleanup. At one point the retreating tide pulled all the sand from underneath, whisking me off my feet, and dunking me on my head. Some cutie pie surfer came by with his “Better be careful, those tides will pull you out to sea.” Uh, thanks kiddo, I think to myself, wiping sand away from, and out of, everywhere. I’ve been out here longer than you have been alive. King Tides took away everything today – not just me. All the logs, seaweed, and yes, trash; gone, gone, gone, back out to sea.

I started thinking cleanup would be nothing more than a sunny stroll down a trash-free beach, until I met up with Sea Hugger, a local nonprofit working to free the ocean from plastic pollution. They brought along their Nurdle, a large sifter, and a really cute guy.

Run the sand through it and surprise!

A lot of the beach is not beach. It looks like small shells, but look closer - it’s actually slicked down shards, ball-shaped bumps, and spongey squiggles of plastic, broken into very small pieces, also called nurdles.

I become Horton in Horton Hears a Who. We are here, we are here, we are here, we are here. They’re everywhere! I never saw them till now. Look closer. All those white dots in this picture are plastic. There were no bottles or bags to pick up, but the beach was still trashed.

Most plastic on the beach is single-use food packaging; we have Food Partied! about it. I didn’t realize though that so much of the beach pollution doesn’t look like trash at all – it looks like sand and shells. Hand sifting isn't the answer, but wow does it show the magnitude of a problem.

Want to join the effort to help rid our ocean and beaches of trash and food-waste plastic, large and small? Check out the Surfrider calendar for upcoming cleanups, held once or twice a month on the weekends. The next cleanup gathers at secret beach, Tunitas Creek just south of Half Moon Bay, March 17th, 10 AM – 12 PM. It was at Martin’s Beach - a Food Party! favorite, if you read this blog a few days ago, but they changed the location and the date.

What are Nurdles?

graphic from Sea Hugger. All photos by LSIC

*learn the history of Martin's Beach, and meet Nicholas Martin