SCOTLAND’S beaches are becoming increasingly polluted with tiny plastic pellets which industry uses as a raw material to make new plastic products.

Lentil-sized pellets, known as nurdles, have been found frequently in the firths of Forth and Clyde, but the results of the UK-wide Great Winter Nurdle Hunt earlier this month show that hundreds were found on several Highland and island beaches.

Scottish environmental charity Fidra organised the event, which involved more than 600 volunteers. Projects officer Madeleine Berg, told The National the number of pellets found was a shock.

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“There are a huge number of pellets on beaches and it’s difficult to count them in certain areas,” she said. “There are also surprising patches of nurdle pollution on the north coast of Scotland. We had a report this weekend from Dunnet, near John o’ Groats of over 1000 pellets being found.

“Even on Shetland, over 100 were found in half an hour of searching, so there are some surprising spots where you wouldn’t expect them to be found.”

One area that appears to be newly affected is Kirkcudbright, where the hunt uncovered hundreds of pellets where none had been found before.

Across the UK the search of 279 beaches and shorelines revealed that 205 of them (73 per cent) had the industrial pellets on them.

Nurdles can escape into the environment throughout their manufacture, transport or use, spilling into waterways or getting into drains where they are washed out to sea, with billions lost in the UK each year.

Berg added: “Simple precautionary measures can help spillages and ensure nurdles don’t end up in our environment. We are asking the UK Government to ensure best practice is in place along the full plastic supply chain, and any further nurdle pollution is stopped.”

Fidra’s interactive map can be seen at: http://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/take-part/nurdle-map.html