Nurdles Down the Drain



Published by Thomas Dunne Books, 2007

Often when you think about the products you are using and their relationship to the environment, the things that come to mind include fuel, household cleaning products, food packaging and plastic. It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking about the environmental impact of the products in my beauty bag and shower caddy.  Alan Weisman, an associate professor at The University of Arizona School of Journalism, and the author of  The World Without Us helped spur the initial investigation of my beauty and bath products.

In his book Weisman dedicates a whole section, chapter 9 “Polymers are Forever,” to tiny plastics that will be left at the bottom of the ocean and everywhere else long after we are gone.

You know those body scrubs you use to exfoliate your dry, scaly skin? Well according to Weisman those tiny plastic beads, known as nurdles, get washed down the drain and make their way into our water system. The nurdles, which are used in the preproduction phase of recycling, are melted together to make any product possible. Nurdles are the raw material plastic goods are produced from. Everything from the milk jug in your refrigerator to the faceplate on your cell phone can be made from nurdles. After searching for an hour I couldn’t find the amount of plastic nurdles processed each year in the United States from any official source, but there are numbers in the billions of pounds floating around out there.

The idea of exfoliating my delicate facial skin with a tiny but abrasive plastic sends chills down my spine. Knowing these plastic spheres make their way into the digestive systems of animals in and around our oceans makes it even worse.


jojoba plant

One scrub you can be sure is not contributing to our choking planet is daily high lather scrub from the Bath & Body Works pleasures collection. The scrub is a little more expensive than some of the drug store brands that have nurdles in them, but it is full of what they call “naturally pampering ingredients.” These ingredients include sunflower seed oil and jojoba seed. In fact,  SNOI international is one large manufacturer, located right here in Tucson, that specializes in creating organic oils to be used in the natural food and cosmetics industry.

I am certainly more aware of what’s in my shower caddy now and when I run out of my scrub, I’ll be sure to not buy one that doesn’t feature nurdles.


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