Clean-up of the nurdle-infested Southampton Chessel Bay Nature Reserve
A nature reserve in Southampton has one of the worst cases of microplastic pollution in the country, according to environmental campaigners.
Chessel Bay on the banks of the River Itchen was devastated by millions of nurdles, plastic pellets, washed ashore.
The site is cleaned by the non-profit company Nurdle.org using their specially designed machines.
It follows a campaign by local people to raise awareness about pollution.
The company and volunteers use specially designed vacuum cleaners to suck up and filter the nurdles – tiny pellets used in the manufacture of plastic products – without damaging surrounding plants and habitats.
Josh Beech of Nurdle.org said the site had suffered from a “devastating” amount of plastic pollution.
“It’s one of the worst areas we’ve seen in England and Wales,” he said.
The company estimates that more than 90 million pieces of plastic were collected in a five-day cleanup earlier this year.
The site is in a bend in the river, making it vulnerable to air and tidal pollution.
A series of week-long clean-ups funded by the Environment Agency are being carried out to suck up the nurdles that are scattered or embedded in the landscape.
The Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on the east bank of the Itchen was designated Southampton’s first local nature reserve in 1989.
Katrina Ayling and other local residents raised the issue with the Environment Agency in 2019, when she described it as “suffocating” in Nurdles.
She said: “I just cried and thought, ‘I have to do something.’
“It’s sad – it’s Southampton’s first nature reserve and the only stretch of natural shoreline we have left. It should be cherished and protected.
“We’re starting to see some results – things are looking better.”
Southampton City Council said it had been working to “remove windblown debris” for a number of years before Nurdle.org’s equipment was successfully tested in 2021.
“Removing the plastic from shore has made a significant difference and will make it much easier to maintain this section of the Chessel Bay Local Nature Reserve in favorable condition while the Environment Agency continues to work with local businesses to meet the goal prevent plastics from entering the environment,” she added.
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