Apr 14, 2021

A nurdle in a haystack. The 2020 Mississippi River plastic pellet spill reveals widespread pellet contamination from multiple sources.



Authors: Mark C. Benfield, Elizabeth Marchio, Aimee Thomas, Kyrsten Boswell, and Nicole Nguyen.

In August 2020 the MV Bianca lost a shipping container filled with an estimated 750 million raw polyethylene resin pellets (nurdles). The majority of these pellets entered the Mississippi River and contaminated shorelines within, and downriver of New Orleans. Samples collected at contaminated sites contained large quantities of nurdles, many of which had morphologies that differed from samples of the spilled pellets. This study describes the spill and the preliminary results from the use of FT-IR  spectroscopy to distinguish spill pellets from those released by other sources.

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