Shamrock Quay Marina, owned by Marina Developments Ltd, is a marina steeped in history and is still a major centre for refit and boat building. This marina, located on the River Itchen, is just 1 km away from Southampton Water, which has the major Port of Southampton and its world-leading cruise terminal. However, the river is heavily impacted with plastic pellets, which can come from a range of sources over a long period, leading to the contamination of long stretches of shoreline around the area.

Despite this unfortunate situation, the contaminated area around the marina can be used as a superb training ground for plastic recovery nurdle collectors, with its almost endless supply of surface-located and shallow-buried nurdles. The UK and Ireland Spill Association, with the permission of Marina Developments Limited and in consultation with the Shamrock Quay staff, recently met at the marina to trial equipment and review their effectiveness in the different shoreside environments of the marina.

During the trial, Oracle Environmental Experts and Oil Spill Response attended with vans full of equipment, and undergraduates from the University of Southampton who are completing a Group Design Project to design a device that collects and sieves nurdles were also present. The trial was a success, with a total of approximately 120kg of plastic pellets and background debris collected from the banks of the marina, which saw benefits to the groups’ research and a positive impact on the local environment.

The recovery equipment used during the trial was effective, with four different vacuum units trialled in total which made light work of most of the nurdles and other small plastics. The paddock cleaner vacuum was the most successful unit as it was sufficiently robust to scrape the ground and move small stones to free semi-buried nurdles and other plastics. With its 50-litre drum capacity, it was quite satisfying and easy to use as it effectively cleared nurdle impacted areas. Following these trials, improvements will be made to the recovery units and work has also commenced on the development of the most effective ways to separate the nurdles from the other arising debris.

There is clearly significant impact from nurdles around the marina and on the banks of the River Itchen in this location, and it is hoped that we can continue to work with the marina to develop improved methods for nurdle recovery and separation. Not only will this also provide a positive contribution to the local environment, this will also help us be better prepared to deal with chronic and acute nurdle contamination around the world.