Today Rising Appalachia joined forces with Clean Oceans International, the Organ State Parks Department, and around 20 volunteers to spend a morning together cleaning up a small bit of South Beach in New Port Oregon. It was foggy and cool as we took shovels, buckets and sifting screens out to the shore line. Ryan Parker, a beach ranger for the Oregon Central Coast District, led us to several areas were debris is deposited by the tide.
At first it looked to be relatively clean, but as we began sifting the sand we found that there were small pits of plastic everywhere, mostly in pieces smaller than a dime. There were thousands of “nerdles”, which are small round bitts of plastic that are about the size of fish eggs. It was amazing how much plastic was in every square foot of sand. Plastic water bottles and cigarette butts are the two most common forms of pollution found on the shore line. They are washed from river and sewers to the ocean, where they hitch hike on currents to be break to small pieces and deposited on beaches all over the world. We learned so much a bout the cycle of plastic, and have so much more to learn about the issue and how we can live more aware of our impact.
25 of us spent the morning out there and only made a small dent in the tiny zone where we were working. The people who showed up were so caring and the energy of the group was so hopeful even though the issue seemed so insurmountable. We were tiny drop in the bucket, working on small beach in a big wide world. A world that is now full of plastic particles. Amazing that one person at a time, one plastic bottle or wrapper or rubber ducky at a time, we have filled the ocean with plastic. I makes sense then that one person at a time, one small place at a time we can also clean that waste.
By making simple commitments (striving to always use reusable or biodegradable drinking vessels, striving to never throw trash on the ground) we can break that part of our link in the chain.
Yet even if we as an individual were to never generate another piece of plastic waste, wouldn’t we still have a responsibility to work towards cleaning up the plastic we have already generated? That same plastic we threw away as children is still out there folks. Are we gonna wait for other generations to start to clean up after us, or make the effort to clean up just a small fraction of the plastic we have left in the world. Plastic that has found its way into the Ocean and is making many many marine animals die unnatural deaths.
Sifting through the sand was kind of like being on a treasure hunt. Imagine if it was a normal activity for families and friends to bring screens and buckets to the beach and do a little sifting and clean up int the area where they were hanging out. Sifting for micro plastic is the new Sand Castle.
Obviously there is no one simple solution… there are many. One is pushing local policy makers to reduce waste, like California’s ban on plastic grocery bags, or some EU countries that have banned plastic water bottles.
The main thing is to care… to keep learning more, to be committed. Once you see you cannot un-see. Lets think 2 or 3 times before generating more plastic garbage. Lets pick up the trash we see on the ground before it gets washed in a rainstorm out to sea and is left there. We have trashed this place a little at a time. We can clean it up a little at a time just as effectively.
That is my thought for the day. I look forward to continuing to explore this issue and partner with folks around the world to clean it up, one square foot at a time. It is never to late to make a difference where u are.
~ Biko Casini ~