Every year, my family participates in the International Coastal Cleanup. Not that we don't pick up trash just about every time we go to the beach, but there's something special about taking part in the worldwide event. When you pick up trash on your own you may not always feel like you are putting a dent in it. But when you head out to take part in the International Coastal Cleanup, you know you are one of 12 million people on that day who are picking up trash along waterways around the world. Collectively, that makes a huge difference!
My son was at soccer practice, but my daughter brought along her best friend. So the four of us combed the beach as we do each year, picking up as much trash as we could. I must say that I'm a bit disgusted at mankind when it comes to the amount of plastics that are in our oceans. I'd love to blame it on Hurricane Irma, but I know better. I see it year after year, and I've read books on it and watched documentaries on it. Our oceans are becoming plastic soup and quite frankly, most people don't give a dam!
We must have picked up 600 little pieces of plastic, but that didn't put a dent in it. What most people don't understand is that just about every bit of plastic ever made is still with us today. It doesn't ever go away. It breaks down into smaller pieces, that infiltrate our oceans, creating massive gyres filled with plastic particles. Those small pieces even become too small to pick up in beach cleanups. You really need something to sift the sand with to try to catch some of the pieces, and they are everywhere! In addition to all of the tiny pieces of plastics, we picked up the usual amounts of plastic bottle caps, straws, cigar tips, etc. There's simply no excuse for it.
When you are sitting on the beach you may look around and think it looks clean and beautiful. But take a walk up by the wrack line where the water pushes things up (the heaps of seaweed on the beach), or up along the sea wall (where the tide pushes things). Look through that and you will see what I'm talking about. Tons of tiny plastic pieces of all shapes, sizes, and colors. It's disgusting and it's completely preventable. People just need to actually care!
Please take the time to learn about plastics, especially single use plastics. Try to reduce your use of plastics, recycle whenever possible, and pick up any plastics you see laying around. A piece of plastic in your community, no matter where you live, eventually makes its way out to the ocean. Everything is connected! Last year during the cleanup, one day, there were 1.3 million pieces of tiny plastic bits (measuring less than 2.5 cm), and that's a small fraction of what's floating in the oceans and mixed in the beach sand.
I highly recommend watching the documentary "Plastic Ocean," that is on Netflix, and reading the book called "Plastic Purge." There is lots of good information out there on the ways in which plastics are damaging our environment (and our health), but those are a great place to start.
- Jacqueline Bodnar