Pre-consumer plastic production pellets (nurdles) are being discharged into British Columbia waterways by plastic manufacturing facilities

The plastics manufacturing industry uses plastic polymer pellets to manufacture bags, bottles, containers, packaging, and other plastic products for commercial and industrial uses.

Over the last three years we have been researching pre-consumer plastic production pellet spills happening at plastics manufacturing industry sites. We have found direct evidence that these plastic pellets are entering the marine environment from plastic production facilities in the Lower Mainland, particularly along multiple arms of the Fraser River.

We have identified and mapped locations around Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands, Sunshine Coast, and the Lower Main-land where pre-consumer plastic pellets are washing up on waterfronts.

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Pre-consumer plastic polymer pellets (nurdles) made from High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE), Low Density PolyEthylene (LDPE), and Polypropylene (PP) utilised to manufacture plastic products such as bags, bottles, containers, packaging, etc. are washing up on BC’s coasts, waterfronts and Canada’s National Parks.

A team of researchers at the University of Victoria and working with the Surfrider Foundation has:

  • researched, monitored and quantified plastic pellets washing up on BC’s coasts; (see map)
  • monitored and quantified pellets washing up on the Fraser River; (see map)
  • found hundreds of thousands of pellets at 12 (thus far) Metro Vancouver plastic industry sites, parking lots, rail sidings, street drains (see photos)
  • found pellets in Metro Vancouver waterways leading to the Fraser River near plastic industry sites (see photos)

Plastic Pellet Spill Media Brief

October 2, 2019 - Re: Pre-consumer plastic production pellets (nurdles) discharged into British Columbia waterways by plastic manufacturing facilities.

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Official Press Release

October 4, 2019 - Surfrider Canada Announces Evidence of an in Progress Solidified Oil Spill in the Fraser River

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Southern British Columbia Plastic Pellet Spill Map

Here you can view an interactive map of the sites where plastic pellets have been located.

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Operation Clean Sweep®

Operation Clean Sweep® is an international program designed by the plastics industry to prevent and help keep plastic litter materials out of the marine environment.

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Great Nurdle Hunt UK

Project aimed at reducing and monitoring plastic nurdle pollution in our seas.

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Below are some great links to media stories about the plastic pellets appearing on our shores.

February 3, 2020 – ‘Outrageous’: Environmental group urges action from B.C. on plastic pellets in waterways

February 2, 2020 – Thousands of industrial plastic pellets found on banks of Delta, B.C., waterway

October 4, 2019 – Industrial plastic pellets spilling into Fraser River, Salish Sea

October 4, 2019 – Tiny plastic ‘nurdles’ could be spilling into Fraser River through storm drains

January 15, 2018 – What beach cleanups reveal about the world

April 22, 2017 – Oak Bay students tackle plastic pollution for Earth Day

March 4, 2017 – B.C. librarian says ‘nurdles’ washing up on beaches is cause for concern

March 3, 2017 – Nurdle Alert

March 2, 2017 – Ideafest presenters perplexed by plastic nurdles

From what we have observed, the primary entry point of plastic pellets into our waterways is via the municipal storm drain system. Installing storm drain covers (the kind required at construction sites) at each manufacturing facility would be a good start, so long as they are maintained.

We respectively request that the British Columbia Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy and related agencies monitor and stop the plastic manufacturing industry from releasing plastic polymer pellets into the environment according to BC’s Environmental Management Act and Regulations [and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.]

Contact the Honourable George Heyman, BC Minister of Environment & Climate Change Strategy at and share your views on monitoring pre-consumer plastic pellet spills at manufacturing plants in British Columbia!

Project Lead

David Boudinot - Plastic Pellets Research