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Marine Debris

Photo: Nurdles

Photo: Madeleline de Young


From toys to toothbrushes to medical tubing, plastic is a major part of modern-day society. While plastic physically breaks down into smaller pieces over time, it never disappears. The smallest fragments of plastic are termed microplastics. Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than 0.2 inches in size, or roughly the diameter of a pencil eraser.

There are many sources of microplastics in Louisiana’s rivers and coastal environments. Here are just a few examples:

  • Litter. Over time, plastic litter breaks down into tiny fragments.
  • Nurdles. These tiny pellets of raw plastic resin are melted down into plastic goods. Nurdles are sometimes accidentally lost to the environment during production or transport.
  • Personal care products. Certain personal care products may contain microscopic bits of plastic exfoliants and scrubbers commercially known as microbeads. Though banned in the U.S. in 2015, microbeads entered the water ways through wastewater effluent and continue to persist in the environment.



For further reading

    1. NOAA. (2021). Microplastics. NOAA Marine Debris Program – Office of Response and Restoration.