Nurdles Response


People heading out to collect nurdles should be aware there are beach nesting birds, including hooded plovers and oystercatchers, ready to nest on beaches in the nurdle clean-up areas.

These birds may be heavily impacted during their breeding season due to the nurdle response. They may be driven away from their nests when people or animals are too close or stay too long in the area.

Some nesting sites have temporary fencing around them but there are also unfenced nesting spots. Please be aware of this

Further information about working around Hooded Plover areas is available on Page 3 of our Information Sheet

Shelly Beach view

Wannon Water is continuing its commitment to clean up nurdles from local beaches following the illegal dumping of the small plastic pellets into the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant and their subsequent release into the ocean in mid-November 2017.

Nurdles are pre-production plastic beads (they look like tiny hailstones) used in the manufacturing of everyday plastic goods and products.

Community groups and individuals wanting to help with the clean up are advised to read the following information if they plan to head out on the beaches.

UPDATE - 11 September 2018

This update follows the implementation of our revised monitoring and clean-up approach published on August 22. The latest information is provided under each of our four commitments:

1 – We will clean up nurdles and other ocean plastic every fortnight

The first of these clean-ups occurred on September 5. A clean-up team of 12 people worked at Shelly Beach for four hours and collected 500 millilitres or around 11,500 nurdles. This is well below the average productivity for our clean-up teams, indicating lower levels of nurdles on the beach. This brings Wannon Water’s total collection since November 2017 to around 18 litres. We also collected around one litre of other small ocean plastics unrelated to the nurdle event, and no larger plastics were found. Wannon Water continues to acknowledge the ongoing clean-up effort by community members of nurdles and a broad range of other unrelated ocean plastics along our coastline.

 Nurdle bag September 2018

We have not observed any more nurdles entering our systems, and the inlet screens at the Warrnambool Sewage Treatment Plant continue to operate effectively to prevent the vast majority of items that shouldn’t be flushed down the sewer from entering the plant. The additional coarse and fine screens installed on the outlet of our plant late last year (shown below) remain in place providing additional protection for the ocean environment.

 Warrnambool STP outlet screen

2 – We will monitor in between clean-ups

Weekly monitoring has commenced at Shelly Beach to ensure we understand how numbers are changing in response to clean-ups, weather and tides. The survey completed on September 4 assessed three plots, each for 10 minutes, using the same method we have published for community members. A total of 129 nurdles were found, mainly around the base of the dunes and in and around seaweed piles. We will continue to compare our survey and clean up results to ensure trigger levels for additional clean-ups remain relevant.

3 – Community reports should be directed to us

We have not received any community requests for additional clean ups in recent weeks.

Community members wishing to report nurdles to us are requested to use the approach outlined here:

  • Complete a 30-minute “nurdle sample” on the beach as follows: collect nurdles for 10 minutes at a location, then move at least 50 metres to another part of the beach and collect for another 10 minutes, and then move once more and collect for 10 minutes. This gives a 30-minute sampling of actual numbers of nurdles able to be collected along a beach, and will help us decide if a clean up crew would be effective.
  • Community members should report their results direct to Wannon Water via email, phone 1800 926 666 or on our Facebook page We need to know how many nurdles were collected in 30 minutes, how many people did that collecting, and where the collection was.
  • Where we receive a community report, we will endeavour to follow up within five days to advise whether we completed a clean-up, and what the results were.

4 – We will continue to build a long term picture

We have recently completed another round of quarterly mapping from Port Fairy to east of Warrnambool, using the same method adopted by the Incident Management Team during the State Emergency phase late last year. The latest map is shown below. It builds on our last mapping run completed in May, and helps provide a long term view of the extent and distribution of nurdles along our local coastline.

Nurdle map August 2018

Overall, the map supports local observations that the winter tides and storms have remobilised small numbers of nurdles previously buried in the sand, and that Shelly Beach remains the primary site for clean-ups. The area from Killarney to Gorman’s Lane was not able to be completed due to weather and tide conditions at the time of the mapping.

We expect to provide a further update in November following the next quarterly mapping activities.