A local litter picker has noticed ‘more nurdles and microplastics than ever before on Weymouth Beach.’

Brian Hallworth, also known as the 'Sheriff of the Seashore' can often be seen walking up and down beaches in Weymouth with his dog May and his handmade litter cart picking up rubbish, nurdles and microplastics.

Brian believes that the number of nurdles washing onto Weymouth Beach could be in the millions.

Nurdles are by definition a microplastic because they are less than 5mm in size and are melted down and made into many plastic items, from clothes to cars, food wrappers to artificial Christmas trees.

It takes roughly 600 nurdles to create one small plastic disposable water bottle.

As well as being an eyesore, they are a serious problem for marine life which are attracted to the plastics and eat them – but the pellets can choke and poison them, and toxic chemicals inside can also make their way up the food chain to humans.

Dorset Echo: Nurdles and microplastics on Weymouth BeachNurdles and microplastics on Weymouth Beach (Image: NQ)

Brian said: “Last Friday, I had come down after a strong easterly wind and it was quite bad because the wind had washed all the plastics and nurdles up.

“As I approached the area in front of the beach office the amount of plastic pollution became worse. The long trail of plastic became two trails and then a much wider carpet of microplastics along with bigger items like plastic toys that hadn't broken down as much yet. 

“Year on year I see the pollution of microplastics getting worse and still the authorities in charge of cleaning the beach do not have equipment to deal with anything smaller than an inch or so.

Dorset Echo: Nurdles and microplastics on Weymouth BeachNurdles and microplastics on Weymouth Beach (Image: Brian Hallworth)

“There are machines that can clean the microplastics off the beach, one such being a beach trommel, a rotating sieve that separates the sand from the larger bits.

“A not-for-profit company called Nurdle.org.uk have a large vacuum towed by a tractor as well as handheld modified garden vacuums supplied by Karcher for the more inaccessible beaches and have recently cleaned the beach at Charmouth and one near Southampton.

“We need equipment like that to clean the plastic that has come up before it is washed back into the sea again by the changing winds and tides.”

Brian got into litter picking in 2015 when he got his dog May.

Dorset Echo: Brian Hallworth litter picking on Weymouth BeachBrian Hallworth litter picking on Weymouth Beach (Image: Hollie Carr)

He explained that they were walking along the beach and he saw a fish which resembled a mackerel and he didn’t want his dog to eat it so he picked it up, but upon doing so, his hand started bleeding and he realised that it wasn’t a fish – it was a mackerel lure.

From then he started picking up more and more litter and tries to get out and do it at least three times a week.

He said: “Despite my health issues which are getting worse, I still feel compelled to do it and raise awareness.”

Councillor Jon Orrell, for Weymouth Town Council and Dorset Council, said: “Plastics in general are a problem. The whole world is being damaged by microplastics, they’re even turning up on top of mountains and in Antarctica.

“The real problem is not unique to Weymouth. The whole planet is awash with pollution from the plastic industry.

"We need to get back to using recycled glass. It’s been a problem for the last 30 years; we’ve gone over to the mass use of plastic because it’s cheap and convenient but the consequences for the environment are massive.  We’ve got to change our ways.”

Emma Teasdale, Project Officer for Litter Free Dorset, said: Tragically, nurdles can be found lurking under the sand on beaches all along the Dorset coast. They are the beginning of the plastic manufacturing process – tiny plastic pellets that are heated and moulded into every plastic item we see in the world, from shampoo bottles to mobile phone covers.

"Nurdles can leak from shipping containers, but estimates suggest that most leakage occurs on land via plastic manufacturing sites. Once they are in the environment, nurdles are very difficult to clean up and there are currently no internationally agreed protocols for clearing them up after a spill.

"Litter Free Dorset has joined calls for plastic pellets to be reclassified by the International Maritime Organisation to make sure they are safely stowed and to push for proper protocols for clean-up and compensation, for the sake of communities and the environment. We also work with community groups and schools to raise awareness of nurdles, and we lend out our trommel machine for local events to remove nurdles from the beach.

"Approximately 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced every year - a result of our demand for cheap, convenient, and single use items that are used once and thrown away. Plastic will never break down; it will only break up – into smaller and smaller pieces that will remain in our environment forever. A solution? Use less stuff! We need to reuse the plastic we already have, instead of constantly creating new things.

(If you go on a nurdle hunt to find and remove plastic pellets from our beaches, make sure you wear gloves and always wash your hands afterwards.)”