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Pre-Production Plastics (commonly known as “Nurdles”)
San Francisco Bay Water Board Focus on Pre-Production Plastics (commonly known as “Nurdles”)
What Are Nurdles and Why Should We Be Concerned?
Nurdles are one type of pre-production plastic. Other common forms of pre-production plastics are powders and sheets. Nurdles are tiny plastic beads that are easy to transport in bulk and to pour, and they melt quickly and evenly. Nurdles are used to make many common plastic objects in daily use in society. If you open your cupboard or refrigerator, chances are high that the plastic jars, bags, films, and tubes that you use on a daily basis started their existence as nurdles.
But, just like other plastic objects, if nurdles get into the environment, they cause big trouble. What spills on land can blow or wash into the storm drain and make it out to the Bay or other local water way. Nurdles, because of their size and shape, look like food to wildlife and can sicken or kill the animals that eat them. For more information, please see
What is the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board Doing about This Problem?
The Regional Water Board has teamed up with the State Water Board and the U. S. EPA to implement an inspection and enforcement program to control nurdle discharges. With this program, once we identify nurdle dischargers, we require them to clean up the nurdles on their sites, to implement control measures to prevent future nurdle releases to the storm drain system, and to clean up the wetlands or water body into which their nurdles have traveled. When we identify a nurdle discharger, we search neighboring businesses to see whether there are other nurdle dischargers contributing to the same storm drain system or water body. That way, we are able to hold all dischargers accountable for the wetland or water body cleanup. We plan to continue this approach city by city, one industrial neighborhood at a time.
The Regional Water Board’s nurdle inspection and enforcement program is the first of its kind in the nation. The first industrial neighborhood we targeted is in San Leandro where the storm drain system discharges to the tidal marsh of the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline and the Bay. In San Leandro, we identified four separate facilities discharging nurdles, and we have required all four to clean up their sites and work together to clean up the marsh. For more information, please see
What Can I Do to Help?
I use or transport pre-production plastic pellets in my business
Apply for coverage under the Industrial General Storm Water Permit and implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan for your facility, using industry-specific techniques and equipment to address the common discharge pathways of nurdles.
I am an interested member of the public
Report nurdle spills or spills of other materials to the storm drain system to us by e-mail or by phone to (510) 622-2402.
Reduce your use of plastic, especially “single use”, “disposable” items, to reduce the need for nurdles.