In the 1967 film, “The Graduate,” a friend of the family corners young Benjamin Braddock, as played by Dustin Hoffman, and says, “I want to say one word to you, just one word … Plastics.”
That was his career advice to the bewildered new college graduate, and pretty good advice it was, considering that society’s use of plastics has increased since that year by more than 1,600 percent, from a total annual production of about 25 million tons to approximately 431 million tons in 2021, according to Statista.
It is also huge problem. Plastic is one of those things that we apparently can’t live with and can’t live without. Cheap and durable, plastic of one kind or another is a component in nearly everything we use — cars, heart valves, computers, contact lenses, bread wrappers, chewing gum, clothing … you name it.
And when it enters the marine environment as microplastic granules known as nurdles, it doesn’t go away. Ever. It simply breaks apart into smaller particles that can be ingested by marine life, including the seafood we eat — like your tuna sandwich.
That’s why the Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s involvement in the NurdlePatrol.org campaign is serious business. It is bad enough that so much of the ocean is polluted with plastic, but microplastic contamination is even worse because it is not as easy to spot and because it is in the food chain.
Right now, the Coastal Bays Program is just getting started with its Nurdle Patrol involvement, which includes determining if it is a problem in these coastal waters. It undoubtedly will be at some point, given that tons of these tiny beads find their way into the ocean each year, but establishing a base point here will help the global effort to track the spread of this toxic material.
Residents of this area can help by volunteering to participate in the search for these particles. Check out the story on the Coastal Bays Program’s involvement in the Nurdle Patrol to see how.