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Europe is importing fracked gas from the US to make new plastic

Nick Hannes for Quartz
Belgium is gearing up to make more plastic. Its shores are already littered in plastic pellets.
  • Zoë Schlanger
By Zoë Schlanger

Environment reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The river Scheldt winds through northern France, crosses through western Belgium, and then turns abruptly west to nick the southwestern edge of the Netherlands. From there, it travels on to disgorge itself in the North Sea. During its dalliance in Belgium it cuts straight through the city of Antwerp, whose great port was carved from its banks.

That’s where, if you look, you’ll find the strangest type of confetti, the oddest dusting of multi-colored snow: All along the river Scheldt near the port of Antwerp, it snows plastic pellets all year long.

Before plastic turns into the objects that fill our lives, it is born into the world as tiny spherical pre-production pellets, called “nurdles.” The lentil-sized pellets are light enough to be blown by wind, and round enough to easily roll away. They are the second-biggest contributor to microplastics in the environment, second only to the plastic microfibers shed from washing polyester clothing. 

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