Cuckmere Haven

Image: BBC Countryfile

Strandliners also carries out regular microplastic surveys at Cuckmere Haven for Fidra, as part of the Great Nurdle Hunt. Fidra is an environmental charity (named after the island in the Firth of Forth) working to reduce plastic waste and chemical pollution.

The group launched The Great Nurdle Hunt in 2013 to document the pollution caused by these plastic pellets, highlighting the issues facing people across Scotland, and then further afield. Fidra uses an evidence-based approach to to encourage and enable plastics producers, users, transporters, and trade associations to introduce best practice in plastic pellet management.

Looking at the ratio of bio-beads to nurdles in each of our survey areas may give some indication of where they might be coming from. We find primary and secondary microplastics on the banks here, mostly on the strandline, where they are deposited by the high tide and trapped on the banks or in the salt marsh.

In October 2022, our 5 volunteers found an average of 1028 bio-beads and 1515 nurdles in their 50 cm square quadrats (0.25 square metres), but barely made an impact in 2 hours. This gave us a ration of 0.7:1 bio-beads to nurdles, slightly lower than previous years. Conditions on the day were dry and sunny with a moderate breeze. There had been a very high tide at midday,

In October 2021, we collected around 5,500 bio-beads & 1,500 nurdles. Many more were present but our surveys were to specifically compare the ratio between nurdles and bio-beads, as this may indicate where the bio-beads are coming from.

In March 2020, we managed to carry out a last survey before lockdown, and found 5,000 bio-beads and 5,000 nurdles in just one square metre. at one site, although we found none at another site further upstream. The tides and currents move the microplastics around constantly.

In February 2019, our 2 volunteers found more than 1,000 nurdles and biobeads in one square metre in 2 hours on a recent high tide line near the mouth of the River Cuckmere. Conditions were calm at the time, but there had been storms a week before. in a 2 hour survey. 600 metres upstream, 119 nurdles and 116 bio-beads were found in one square metre in an old tide line on rocky and saltmarsh river bank.