13 billion. That’s the number of tiny, pre-production plastic pellets—often referred to as “nurdles”—that remain afloat in the waters off Hong Kong. Six 40-foot containers filled with these plastic pellets were lost off a shipping vessel when it was caught by hurricane-force winds and heavy seas during last month’s Typhoon Vicente. Exactly how much plastic did these containers contain? Each container carried at least 25,000 kilograms of plastic pellets, meaning approximately 150 tons—or 300,000 lbs.—of plastic were sent overboard during the storm. Keeping in mind that plastic is an extremely lightweight material, this number is roughly equal to the weight of two Boeing-737 aircraft.
Since the spill, large quantities of the pellets and the bags have been appearing on beaches and coastlines all over Hong Kong. Ecovision, the International Coastal Cleanup Coordinator for Hong Kong, is taking a role by joining hands with a number of committed local conservation groups and government departments to initiate the Hong Kong Plastic Pellet Patrol. The Patrol divided Hong Kong into different Cleanup sectors and assigned participating NGOs areas of responsibility. Through their combined efforts, they have succeeded in removing an estimated 71 tons of the plastic from the sea and coastlines; but again, up to 13 billion pellets remain unaccounted for off the Hong Kong coast. Continue reading »