image - nurdle trommel
This trommel will soon be on the Coastside beaches in an effort to sift out small plastics from the sand. Photo courtesy of Nurdle 

It looks like a super-sized version of one of those rotating cages often used in Bingo games, but has a name that sounds straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Fans say the Nurdle Trommel is a new way to fight our micro-plastics problem. 

El Granada resident Michelle Cleave stumbled upon the device when she was browsing postings on environmentally minded webpages on social media. It comes from the United Kingdom and the company that makes it told her that when it arrives on the Coastside in the next few days it will be the first one put to use in the United States. 

Cleave, who is also the founder of the local nonprofit Sea Hugger, isn’t surprised about the trommel’s origin. 

“The UK is really taking responsibility for plastic pollution,” she said. “They’re just really killing it.” 

She laughs when told the name is reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss creation. It’s coincidentally appropriate in this case.

“I always say I’m the Lorax,” Cleave says. “I speak for the seas.” 

Sea Hugger, which formed on the Coastside earlier this year, operates on the mission of fighting plastic pollution in the ocean. It uses a number of avenues, including beach clean-ups and encouraging people to turn toward reusable products. 

A gadget geared toward picking up plastic as small as 2 millimeters in diameter — so small it’s often mistaken as a broken shell — was right up the organization’s alley. 

The device works by lightly skimming the top layer of sand, said Cleave, while noting that its users will be careful not too scoop too deeply as a precaution against harming sea life. In addition to the micro-plastics, the trommel will also pick up some larger debris through its filtration system. Cleave says that once the device is used she hopes to keep the collected plastics stored in larger tubes to provide a visual of the potentially harmful materials collected from the area oceans. 

“They’re so dangerous,” Cleave said of the micro-plastics. “No. 1, they’re really hard to clean. No. 2 they’re extremely dangerous to marine life and seabirds because they think it’s food.” 

With stomachs full of indigestible plastics, these animals will starve and die, noted Cleave. 

The Nurdle Trommel is expected to make its Coastside debut on Jan. 19, during a Dunes Beach cleanup that will take place that day from 9 to 11 a.m. 

The Sea Hugger nonprofit adopted Dunes Beach and will be hosting regular clean-ups scheduled on the third Saturday of every month. 

The device cost $2,000 and the money is currently being raised by the community through a GoFundMe page that can be found at www.gofundme.com/nurdle-device-to-clean-the-beaches-of-microplastic. GoFundMe organizers were so intrigued by the project that they made it their campaign of the month, said Cleave, even throwing in their own $1,000 toward the cause. 

And while the trommel will be stored in Cleave’s garage, she anticipates lending it out to other organizations such as the Pacifica Beach Coalition and nearby Surfrider Foundation chapters for their clean-ups as well. 

“We get the incredible blessing of being in close proximity to the ocean,” Cleave said. “We have the responsibly to do our best (to keep it clean).” 

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