Nurdle Free Lanka

Volunteer Campaign Against Plastic Pellets

OBJECTIVE: Remove all nurdles from the shorelines of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is facing the worst marine environmental disaster due to the two-week inferno of the MV X-Press Pearl which has partially sunk off the coast of the Western Province of the Island. Large amounts of hazardous chemicals and billions of plastic pellets/ nurdles have spilt into the sea while a significant oil spill looms as the vessel lays stricken on shallow waters battered by heavy monsoon ocean currents. The pollution caused by the toxic cargo is visibly impacting the marine environment and the shorelines of Sri Lanka. While many of the nurdles are still floating on the sea, shorelines stretching from Mannar to Hambathota are seen littered with pre-production pellets of most plastic items. Nurdles are detrimental to marine animals who mistake them for food and ingest them. These nurdles can absorb the pollutants in the water and become toxic, posing the risk of those toxins bioaccumulating in marine animals and passing throughout the food chain. Consumption by humans could potentially lead to health hazards that are still being studied.

The Pearl Protectors, which is a youth-led marine conservation organization in Sri Lanka is spearheading coordinated efforts to mitigate the pollution caused due to the nurdle pollution. ‘Nurdle Free Lanka’ intends to collect all nurdles which lay stricken on the shorelines of Sri Lanka by using various nurdle collecting apparatus, volunteer mobilizations, shoreline surveying and involving coastal communities in long term mitigation efforts. The Pearl Protectors along with mandated agencies, partners, patrons and volunteer organizations intends to target coastlines that are most impacted by nurdles and collect the nurdles using trommel technology, large scale sieving, and handheld sieving. Collected nurdles will be handed over to the authorities. The total duration of the clean-up campaign is initially intended to be three months starting 6th July 2021.

Safety precautions and marine debris handling guidelines will be adhered to during the remediation process. The cleanup events will comply with COVID 19 restrictions and participation will be dependent on the travel restrictions placed by the Government at the time.

Volunteers are required to wear protective gear. Clear and mandated briefings and information on step-by-step cleaning processes will be disseminated prior to commencement. Volunteers will be provided with all necessary cleaning tools and adequate knowledge on proper segregation and safe disposal methods of the waste. A volunteer control center intends to collect survey data in determining the shorelines for cleaning. Cleaning apparatus will be placed in all beach stretches initially through the pilot project initiation. The apparatus tools will be available for volunteer teams to use where once used for cleaning; a volunteer survey will retrieve data on the collected quantity of nurdles.

Nurdle Free Lanka Logo (PNG) Transparent
Nurdle Free Lanka Logo

Campaign Sections

Campaign Updates


The MV X-Press Pearl maritime disaster spilled an estimated 75 billion plastic pellets into Sri Lankan waters, causing the largest nurdle spill that the world has seen thus far.

Being lightweight and buoyant, the pellets have spread across the western, southern and northwestern coasts, turning Sri Lanka’s picturesque beaches into wastelands. In due course, this is bound to become a regional problem as the pellets could make landfall in other Indian Ocean countries.

Currently, there are no legislative and regulatory provisions to address plastic pellets in Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka is a signatory to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes, the Annexes from I to VI of MARPOL have not yet been fully incorporated into parliamentary legislation.

The advocacy petition calls for the issuance of domestic regulations to control plastic pellets in Sri Lanka, formulation of a contingency plan to effectively contain plastic pellet spills from ships and the effective incorporation of MARPOL into parliamentary legislation.

Segmentation of the Campaign


Apparatus Packages

Location Description

Phase 1


Pilot initiation at Wellawatta and Mt. Lavinia shorelines

Phase 2


Wellawatta, Mt. Lavinia, Dehiwala, Galle Face, Galkissa, Rathmalana, Lunawa, Dehiwala Canal, Modara, Angulana, Crow Island, and/or donate some of the apparatus packages to the armed forces in cleaning efforts

Phase 3


Wellawatta, Mt. Lavinia, Dehiwala, Galle Face, Galkissa, Rathmalana, Lunawa, Dehiwala Canal, Modara, Angulana, Crow Island, Preethipura, Dikkowita, Uswetakeiyawa, Moratuwella, Panadura, Wadduwa, Pothupitiya, Kaluthara, Katukurunda, Beruwala, Moragalla, and/or donate some of the apparatus packages to the armed forces in cleaning efforts

Phase 4


Southern and Western province (locations to be determined)

  • The initial timeframe of the campaign is 3 months with a possible extension based on the requirement
  • Selection of apparatus sieving tools will be donated to the armed forces who are diligently supporting in the cleaning of the shorelines
  • The campaign is subjected to pause, or halt based on the circumstances or if achievable goals are met.
  • Patron benefits will be provided based on first come, first serve basis due to the urgency of the campaign.

Map Locations

Map 1
Map 2
Map 3
Map 4

Nurdle Portal

Apparatus Tools

The Pearl Protectors have introduced 3 unique designs to sieve the plastic nurdles from the shorelines.

  1. Hanging Sieve
  2. Trommel Sieve
  3. Handheld Sieve

Hanging Sieve

Hanging Sieve

The hanging sieve was designed uniquely through The Pearl Protectors after observing the functionality of a construction sieve and including aspects of user friendly and ease of mobility.  The sieve has a carrying capacity of up to 15 shovel sand loads while requires physical force to shake the sieve tray which is hanging over the metal load frame. The bottom of the tray is constructed using an aluminum mesh which filters and nurdles from the sand. While the sand is filtered to the bottom, the nurdles can be collected and moved into a waste collector. The tray is freely hanging onto the load frame by 4 chains fixed to the corners.

The hanging sieve has a capacity to sieve nurdles within 30 seconds which can be scooped out using plastic scoops. The complete tool set will include 1 shovel, 1 bucket, 7 gunny bags, 2 plastic scoops and gloves.


1800 mm


1188 mm


1188 mm

Trommel Sieve

Trommel Sieve

The trommel sieve was inspired by the generic sieving tools used during the 2012 nurdle spill in Hong Kong. The trommel sieve requires 2 individuals for its functionality where one person rotates the trommel using a handle while another shovels in sand. The trommel is fixed to a mobile and light weight metal frame which can be moved along the beach to the desired location. Once in use, the rotating trommel sieves the sand while collecting the nurdles at the bottom corner where a collection bag can be fixed in. The trommel is subjected to further adjustments to increase efficiency and mobility.

The trommel sieve has the capacity of continually sieving nurdles while sand is being added in. The complete tool set will include 1 shovel, 1 bucket, 7 gunny bags, and gloves.


1500 mm


2100 mm


   300 mm

Handheld Sieve

Handheld Sieve

Two types of handheld sieves have been designed for more precise, on location nurdle cleaning. Both models can be used by an individual while can be hand carried. Each model has the capacity to sieve a shovel load of sand within 20 seconds while the collected nurdles can easily be deposited to a collection bag. Large scale production of the handheld sieves would provide the opportunity to distribute these models along the coastal populations and amongst volunteers. The sieves are designed in a method which provides ease in holding and physically shaking the sand on the tray while provides adequate section to hang the sieve when not in use.

Handheld sieve 1 has a dimension of 16” x 16”  

Apparatus Tools Package Per Location

Apparatus tools package: Each of the designated locations will have 1 hanging sieve, 1 trommel sieve, 10 handheld sieves.

Volunteer distribution: 30 handheld sieves to be utilized during volunteer mobilization events to micro mitigate nurdle pollution

Pollution Variation Surveying

Constant survey data input is essential in making the campaign impactful. While billions of plastic pellets are still floating on sea, ocean currents and wind patterns make the pellets nurdles drift towards the shoreline. Much of the variations of pollution can be determined based on hightide, strong wind patterns and monsoon behavior. The pollution survey intends to gather data based on the above variables and input the collected data towards effective volunteer mobilization activities across the shorelines. The initial surveys will be conducted across the coastlines of Western Province. 

Every week we conduct a pollution survey to determine the nurdle cleaning sites for the volunteer mobilization. Our team goes to 20 sampling locations with high nurdle pollution to do the cleanup. These 20 locations represent the majority of the beaches along the Western coast of Sri Lanka.

The survey team uses a 15 cm × 15 cm sampling quadrat and places it on the beach on the nurdles.

The team collects data from three locations on a specific beach, including high, medium, and low pollution with nurdles. They take high-resolution photographs of the sampling site and then calculate the number of nurdles in a quadrate. The three photographs from a specific location are considered, and the average number of nurdles is calculated. The sites with a high number of nurdles are considered for nurdle cleaning on Sunday.

 Live updates of surveyed data will be shared through The Pearl Protectors social media and web page.

Volunteer Mobilization

The Pearl Protectors will mobilize its volunteers along with volunteers from partnered organization in eradicating the nurdles from the shorelines. Eleven mobilization activities are intended to progress during the campaign where targeted coastlines with high density of nurdles are identified and treated. Volunteers will be provided necessary information, equipment, safety gear, food/refreshments, and recognition for volunteering. The campaign intends to partner with volunteer organizations and youth groups to assist with collecting the shoreline nurdles.

All nurdles will be collected and handed over to the authorities at MEPA with strict guidelines as to avoid any contaminations. All volunteers will be following strict COVID19 prevention guidelines and will be equipped with necessary COVID19 spread prevention attire.

Additionally, nurdle collecting competitions will be conducted in order to reward larger collections while including in the aspects of enjoyment and entertainments.

Partnering volunteer organizations will receive visibility and promotional credit through the campaign if significant source of volunteers can be mobilized through the said organization. 

Volunteer Organization Campaign Commitment;

  • Participate in at least 5 of 11 volunteer events under the campaign which will take place predominantly during a weekend during the next three months
  • Commit to at least 10 volunteers from your organization during each of the agreed events
  • Be responsible for the safety and the wellbeing of the volunteers of your organization during the volunteer event
  • Communicate efficiently with the liaising Campaign Coordinator on event updates, event media and any queries or concerns

With above commitments agreed upon, the volunteer organization will be recognized as a partner of the Nurdle Free Lanka campaign where organizational logo will be displayed on the official campaign webpage, any press releases, and any relevant promotions. Interested organizations are invited to send an email to showing interest to partner.


The campaign has collected over 1 Tonne of nurdles since July while mobilizing over 1000 volunteers. The Nurdle Free Lanka campaign is the largest volunteer campaign conducted in Sri Lanka. The initiative is also one of the largest and the longest running volunteer campaigns globally. Passionate volunteers from all walks of life from The Pearl Protectors, partnered volunteer organizations, local communities & youth groups, and businesses & corporations came together to return the shorelines of Sri Lanka to its pristine stage.

Campaign Patrons

Exclusive Patrons

Lanka Environment Fund
Mitra Innovations
Jetty Rock Foundation
Tiqri Corporation (Pvt) Ltd

Campaign Patrons

Mount Lavinia Hotel

Supporting Patrons

MAS Kreeda

Campaign Fundraising Initiatives

  • Friends of the Pearl – They are four Sri Lankan friends (Klara, Debbie, Natasha and Ranitri) who are based in New York City. In response to the MV X-Press Pearl disaster, they banded together to spread the word and raise funds from their friends.
  • Tavish Gunasena @tavishgunasena – Tavish is a fine art and documentary photographer from Colombo. He is fixated with depicting the entanglement between humans and their natural, constructed, and virtual environments. Tavish is conducting a flash print sale where 100% of the proceeds minus print charge will go towards the campaign.
  • Naomi Pieris – Pearl Protector Party – Naomi and Ronan, based in London have been supporting Pearl Protectors since the MV X-Press Pearl Disaster. Together with their friends came together on the 16th October to dance, raise awareness and funds towards the campaign. @innertotality
  • Project Virya – Initially conceptualised by the 2007 batch of Musaeus College in memory of Dr. Gayan Danthanarayana who succumbed to COVID-19 and donated the first ECMO compatible CRRT machine in Sri Lanka and essential medical equipment to the Teaching Hospital in Karapitiya.

Volunteer Partners

Leo Club of Wickramasinghepura
Rotaract - Royal Institute of Colombo
Youth Force
Rotaract - Achievers Lanka Business School
Leo Club of Wattala
Rotaract - Colombo Mid City
Extinction Rebellion Sri Lanka
Rotaract - Central Campus
Rotaract - College of Chemical Sciences
Rotaract - University of Peradeniya
Rotaract - Infomatics Institute of Technology
Typical Sri Lankans (TSL)
Eka Muthu Foundation
Hype Sri Lanka
Leo Club of Colombo Grand City
Rotaract - Wellawatte
Rotaract - SLIIT
Rotaract - CINEC Campus
Walkers Tours
Whittalls Travels Sri Lanka
Rotaract - Colombo North
Environment Society of CIS
Rotaract - University of Moratuwa
Interact - Isipathana College

Campaign Funding

Total funding requirement of the Nurdle Free Lanka Campaign is Rs 3,506,000.00. 

The funding will be separated based on Apparatus Tools Packages, Promotions/Awareness, Volunteer mobilizations, and Pollution Surveys. The campaign will be separated into 3 stages based on efficiency, impact and time duration.



Total for 1st stage (tentative 3 weeks) 

Rs 500,688.00

Total for 2nd stage (tentative 1.5 months)

Rs 1,471,740.00

Total for 3rd stage (tentative 1 month)

Rs 1,533,642.00

Total budget of the campaign

Rs 3,506,000.00

We invite passionate individuals and business entities to support us in this campaign to eradicate nurdles from polluting our shorelines and the marine environment.  

Please email us at for more information on donating towards the campaign or being a patron

Funding and donations can be directed to:

Account Name:       The Pearl Protectors

Account Number:   109261005455

Bank Name:             Sampath Bank PLC

Branch Name:         Maharagama Super – 092

Swift Code:              BSAMLKLX

Please email us at to share the logo/receipt.

Entities can become a Patron of the Campaign with additional visibility benefits.