Cape Town - Nurdle plastic waste found along beaches is now being converted into concrete materials, which allows it to be used effectively instead of ending up in landfills.
The nurdle spill in Cape Town in October prompted the Centre for Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC) to find a solution to the excessive amounts of nurdles found along rivers, streams and beaches.
The CRDC, which focuses on permanent solutions to plastic waste, chief executive Brett Jordaan said: “Our processes can take any type of waste plastics, which includes dirty plastic and soil. We are the main solution for nurdles because they have pieces of dirt and sand on them, which means the recycling industry won’t be able to utilise them, whereas we can.”
He said they are put into a process that takes any type of plastic and shreds it. Specific types of minerals are added and then the nurdles are heated through an extrusion process.
“We granulate the nurdles and make it into a synthetic sand, which makes it a perfect additive for concrete. The end concrete products are stronger and lighter materials, which include building blocks for houses, toilet blocks for informal housing, and underground drainage pipes,” he said.
NRDC’s nurdle process started last month, after the most recent spill in Cape Town. A full scale plant is envisioned to be built, which will be the biggest one in Africa and be able to process 48 tons of plastic per day.
“It made perfect sense to add the nurdles with the plastic waste. They are both plastic, which makes it easier to convert into resinate. Nurdles would otherwise end up in landfills,” he said.
CRDC plant manager André Jameson said: “The first part of the process is identifying which type of plastic waste is received. Different types of plastics are received and the nurdles are mixed with this.
“This entire process also allows for job creation and the larger plant to be developed will be a whole different ball game for jobs and for sustaining the environment.”
The Beach Co-op founder Aaniyah Omardien said: “The first nurdles were detected by citizens in the Southern Cape beaches, in early October. The vessel that lost containers was off the Cape Agulhas coastline. They have been dispersed quite widely, as we’ve received reports of nurdles being found not only in beaches but in estuary rivers, such as Zandvlei nature reserve.”
She said sea animals continue to mistake nurdles for food, which causes a blockage and then results in their starvation.
“Nurdles is one form of pollution and the recent nurdle spill exacerbated the problem, even though they have already been around. The 2017 spill in Durban was a repercussion of previous nurdles being found on beaches,” she said.