Plastic pellets or nurdles which are the building blocks of so many plastic products are a hot environmental topic right now. With two new bills before Congress, the BreakFree From Plastic Pollution Act of 202 and the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act of 2022, the pressure on businesses, on municipalities and government to find effective solutions is growing.
The problem with plastic pellets is their size. Pellets or nurdles are produced in their billions by the petrochemical industry to make nearly all our plastic products. They are about the size of a small lentil and because of that, very easy to accidentally spill. It just takes a small hole in a sack for pellets to spill out in their thousands – from a truck or a container or even at the rail yard. Once they’re out, pellets invariably head for water.
Because of their size and buoyancy, pellets spilt on land often find their way into the stormwater runoff. Then they flow out to our waterways, rivers and oceans. It’s like a great migration – only these pellets can take life. They look like and are mistaken for food by birds and fish and before you know it, pellets are on the menu. And that’s why environmental laws are getting tough.
It seems obvious, but the best way to catch accidental pellet spills is at the stormwater drain. We can never prevent accidental pellets spills, but we can prevent them getting into the stormwater system int he first place. Enviropod LittaTrap, a catch basket insert that sits inside storm drains, has been doing this successfully on a global level. Over 50,000 are in place in cities from New Zealand to Australia, Canada to the USA. The LittaTrap basket coupled with an Enviropod patented specialist pellet ( nurdle)liner can capture and retain plastic pellets and all trash over 1mm. When full,it can be simply lifted out and the harmful pellets can be disposed of safely.
In New Zealand, Medical Plastics Ltd, monitored the effectiveness of one LittaTrap in their stormwater drain for 12months. An Operation Clean Sweep member, Medical Plastics already was a very clean site, however like all plastic manufacturing sites, it was inevitable there would be accidental spills. In the 12months of sampling, nearly 5kg of material was collected in the LittaTrap.Apart from the odd cigarette butt and some leaf litter, the majority of that5kg was pellets – nearly 220,000 of them. Sampling also showed that the LittaTrap was very effective at catching the tiniest resin pellets as small as 0.0221grams.
Closer to home in Ontario,Canada, Operation Sweep theCreek was begun to address the problem of plastic pellets at source. Once again, they enrolled the help of LittaTrap to test their containment strategy. With five LittaTraps deployed, they managed to successfully divert nearly 35,000 pellets from entering Mimico Creek in just289 days. They are now scaling up their operation and installing more LittaTraps at plastic-related companies in the Toronto watershed.
The Enviropod LittaTrap is an innovation from Enviropod International, a company dedicated to solving stormwater problems around the world. They work with private businesses, with municipalities and local governments in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to meet local and federal stormwater quality requirements and regulations. In 2019, LittaTrap was awarded the Best Stormwater Technology winner at the Water’s Next Award which recognized LittaTrap as a technology that can significantly reduce plastic pollution.
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