Public Lab Research note

Sweep and Pan vs Scoop and Sift: Methods for Nurdle Retrieval

by eustatic | September 05, 2020 21:17 05 Sep 21:17 | #24528 | #24528

Follow up to

We are compiling methods for cleaning nurdles.

Leaf Blower and Scoop

A method that seems to be designed to burn as much fuel as possible, while pushing plastic into the water:


On the morning that work began, I observed a crew cleaning a stretch of the river bank in New Orleans' French Quarter. They were using leaf blowers to stir up the nurdles, trying to gather the pebble-like plastic resin pellets closer together before scooping them up. In the process, however, some of the nurdles were blown back into the Mississippi River.


Cleanup workers using leaf blowers to collect nurdles on a New Orleans river bank
Cleanup worker blowing nurdles along the shore of the Mississippi River in New Orleans._

_When I asked one of the workers if he realized some of the nurdles were being pushed back into the river and swept away by its current, he shrugged. He told me that they were still figuring out the best way to clean up the nurdles.

Sweep and Pan --low volume tideline work

Jace at Nurdle Patrol has video of his using his hands


Alternatively, you could use a dustpan and a broom (or your hand). This is recommended for low amounts of nurdles. I don't have pictures of this, but Dr Liz recommends this method.

The advantage of this method is that nurdles can be sampled rigorously

gust 28, 2020 - 11:05

Mark Benfield (right), a professor at Louisiana State University, with Dr. Liz Marchio, a local scientist, collecting nurdles under a wharf in New Orleans on August 25.

Dr Liz and Dr Mark, by Julie Dermansky, desmogblog

Scoop and Sift -High Volume, shovels and sifter

We see this for citizen clean ups. reminds me of composting.

Hailey Fynaardt

Hailey Fynaardt and her husband, Dan, started cleaning up pellets, also known as "nurdles," on the Algiers Point riverbank on Wednesday. They went out again on Thursday evening, this time with a couple friends. A guy who had been selling ice cream nearby joined in. A family out for a stroll asked if they could help, and then another. By sunset, there were more than a dozen people digging nurdles out of the Mississippi mud.

Fynaardt knows the plastic they've collected is only a tiny fraction of the mess. But each nurdle she drops in her bucket is potentially one less nurdle causing trouble in the belly of a fish, turtle or bird.

Scoop And Sift --handheld kitchen strainer

The handheld kitchen strainer I bought for oil sheens could also assist with nurdles. Here's the action indoors.

This seems most viable / flexible method, so long as it's combined with a bucket of water to pour through the sieve.

This is good for low volumes at tidelines

Or Plastic Traps, like Piety Wharf

I also started building larger sifters to use with large scoop shovels

I did this with hardware cloth stapled to trim lumber, 45 cm by 75 cm.

We are challenged to find a nurdle retrieval method that can get them out of crevices in the Rip Rap. Any ideas?

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Trust an aquarium nerd to pull this off:

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Do we know this guys name? This is such an awesome video! I enjoyed watching it, thanks for sharing @eustatic. He said it cost him between $300-$380 to buy all the equipment and didn't require additional cutting to set up. I wonder if we could make it cost less to put together?

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Ray Aivazian III? Surfrider someplace...Huntington beach? where's that?

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Huntington Beach is part of Los Angeles. Love these Surfriders!

@eustatic thanks for flagging this individual again -- going to see if I can find a direct contact and reach out to Ray!

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Look at KwaZulu-Natal in SA pulling it off. I like the way they think. Flour sifter, or nurdle sifter? you make the call.

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