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Stalking the Nurdle

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Citizen groups are getting serious about manufacturers who violate Clean Water Act rules. Recently the nonprofit Plastic Pollution Coalition and the environmental law firm Greenfire have set their sights on plastic manufacturers in California that are violating stormwater permits or, worse, that don’t have stormwater permits. In particular, the PPC is focusing on manufacturing facilities that release plastic microbeads—also called nurdles—into the environment.

Nurdles are the pre-production substance used in the manufacture of many plastic goods such as plastic bags, films, and containers. (Pre-production plastic also comes in powder or sheet form, but these microbeads are considered especially dangerous when they end up in surface waters.) As we’ve covered before in Stormwater magazine, birds, fish, and other marine life can ingest small pieces of plastic—some studies show that 9% to 12% of fish have done so; if they eat enough of it, it can cause them to starve.

Since 2008, California has had a law in place to curb the release of these microbeads and to force industry to clean up discharges that have already taken place. It’s the first state to enact such a law.

Citizen groups are getting serious about manufacturers who violate Clean Water Act rules. Recently the nonprofit Plastic Pollution Coalition and the environmental law firm Greenfire have set their sights on plastic manufacturers in California that are violating stormwater permits or, worse, that don’t have stormwater permits. In particular, the PPC is focusing on manufacturing facilities that release plastic microbeads—also called nurdles—into the environment.

Nurdles are the pre-production substance used in the manufacture of many plastic goods such as plastic bags, films, and containers. (Pre-production plastic also comes in powder or sheet form, but these microbeads are considered especially dangerous when they end up in surface waters.) As we’ve covered before in Stormwater magazine, birds, fish, and other marine life can ingest small pieces of plastic—some studies show that 9% to 12% of fish have done so; if they eat enough of it, it can cause them to starve.

Since 2008, California has had a law in place to curb the release of these microbeads and to force industry to clean up discharges that have already taken place. It’s the first state to enact such a law.

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Greenfire and the PPC have identified a number of companies and brought legal action against them—some of them detailed in this article. Penalties often include—in addition to complying with stormwater permits and monitoring for plastics and other constituents in runoff—paying fines that benefit local watershed protection groups and cleanup efforts.

Greenfire and the PPC have identified a number of companies and brought legal action against them—some of them detailed in this article. Penalties often include—in addition to complying with stormwater permits and monitoring for plastics and other constituents in runoff—paying fines that benefit local watershed protection groups and cleanup efforts.

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