Campaigners criticise billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe for polluting Britain with plastic nurdles

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Nurdles on a beach

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the chief executive of the plastic manufacturer, Ineos. It’s made him the third richest man in the UK at £18 billion.

Nurdles on beach
Nurdles on the beach – Photo: in public domain/fair use.

He has a plant at Grangemouth in Scotland where they produce nurdles. These are small plastic pellets; the raw material for plastic products such as packaging. More than 300 billion nurdles are manufactured at the Grangemouth plant every week.

For some reason, probably carelessness or spillages, many of these pellets find their way onto beaches about 12 miles from the plastic plant. The children of a local primary school collected 330,000 nurdles in February as part of a big cleanup.

Nurdles are a plastic menace. The environmental consultancy Eunomia estimate that the beaches and seas around the UK are polluted with up to 53 billion nurdles annually. Plastic is contaminating marine wildlife even before it is used to make plastic products.

The worrying thing is that Sir Jim is predicting a growth in his plastic business by 30 to 40% over the next 20 years. This can only translate into more nurdles, more pollution, more hazards for wildlife particularly marine wildlife and it is time to rethink what we are doing.

“Nurdles are very difficult to remove, these pellets are found across the whole of the UK and the whole of the world, from the Galapagos Islands to Grangemouth, from Cape Town to Canada. They have been shown to be in the stomachs of seabirds and other marine animals.”

Jasper Hamlet – Fidra

During the Great Nurdle Hunt in February, pellets were found in more than 80% of areas tested across 31 countries. Of 227 surveys on Britain’s beaches, nurdles were found on 185 of them.

In one cleanup at Tregantle beach in Cornwall, last year, 401,230 nurdles were collected.

Gulls, terns and puffins ingest nurdles as they are found in their stomachs during post-mortem investigations. The plastic to make nurdles comes from ethane imported from America as a product of fracking.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company tries to present a green profile to the world by, for example, sponsoring Sir Ben Ainslie’s 2021 America’s cup bid and more recently the cycling team formerly known as Team Sky.

“Ineos is dead set on expanding plastic production just as we are beginning to understand the extent and gravity of the crisis, and what it means for human health and wildlife. Ineos is swimming against the tide of progress, intent on trashing the planet for a quick buck .”

Mary Church – Head of Campaigns for Friends of the Earth Scotland.

The Times newspaper tried to contact Ineos for a comment in response but they simply say that plastic has a huge value in society.

P.S. The BBC is airing a documentary presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall called War on Plastic, this month.

Update June 4th 2019

Tom Crotty of Ineos has described the campaign lead by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as “pretty pathetic”. He claims that the nurdles come from ‘deep ocean washing-up’. I have no idea what he means. Perhaps he means that plastic is reduced to these pellets in the oceans. He wants to deflect the criticism, no doubt. And he says that plastic does a lot of good in the world.

Comment: Yes plastic does some good but it also pollutes the world including the oceans to a huge extent. There is no doubt about it. There is an obligation on Ineos to prove that the nurdles found 12 miles away are not theirs. It is hard to believe Mr Crotty. Very hard. It is time for Ineos to change its culture and attitude to environmental pollution as the world’s attitude has changed. With respect to plastic polluting the oceans we can thank Sir David Attenborough for educating the world.