I’ve blogged before about nurdles - the building blocks in plastic products, everything from milk jugs to toothpaste tubes to car parts. The number of these pellets produced annually on our planet is staggering. One study showed that up to 53 billion pellets may be lost into the environment every year. A 2016 report estimated that the world’s oceans are polluted with 230,000 metric tons of nurdles every year. In 2020, more than 700 million tons of nurdles spilled into the Mississippi River near New Orleans. And that’s hardly the biggest of spills o record worldwide.
But the citizens of Point Comfort, Texas decided they weren’t going to take the gross contamination of their homes lying down. Led by Diane Wilson, a handful of volunteers, spent years collecting tons of the nurdles, and the raw-plastic nurdle powder, that had polluted the Gulf Coast of Texas between Houston and Corpus Christi. That effort proved to be just the evidence they needed to take the company that was flooding Cox Creek and Lavaca Bay - Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group – to federal court in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas to hold it accountable for its wrongdoing.
Formosa is the world’s sixth largest chemical maker. Formosa’s Texas plant makes massive quantities of nurdles annually from a raw form of vinyl powder derived from oil and gas by-products. The Wilson group’s work providing damming evidence that Formosa was discharging a flood of the plastics into Cox Creek and Lavaca Bay, part of an interconnecting network of Gulf of Mexico inlets about halfway between. Thanks to their efforts, Formosa has pledged to stop polluting the local biosphere with nurdles and try and repair the damage it has already done as best as possible. Formosa has also agreed to pay $50 million into a trust to fund local conservation projects and scientific research, and a sustainable fishing co-operative.
Fingers crossed that this settlement serves as a catalyst for a global effort to rid the world of nurdle destruction by holding each and every polluter accountable for every pellet of their poisoning. If you believe that your neighborhood or a place you enjoy is polluted with nurdles, you should contact an experienced law firm like Bordas & Bordas to explore your options to make your neighborhood and the world a healthier place.
Now, Wilson’s win is a warning to others making and handling nurdles that they too could face costly consequences for leaking plastics into the environment. Regulation of the pellets remains weak, but the ripples of change the case set off may be the start of a new, more stringent approach to managing them.
The judge’s ruling called Formosa a “serial offender” whose “violations are enormous.” Following the verdict, the company, part of Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group—the world’s sixth largest chemical maker—agreed to pay $50 million into a trust funding local conservation projects, scientific research, and a sustainable fishing co-operative. Formosa also committed to stopping the spills and cleaning up its mess.