Posts Tagged ‘SOLV Spring Beach Clean Up’

Recently at the Port Beach, discovering we each had a Ray’s bag (plastic of course, sigh), we began to scour.

The place wasn’t as icky as sometimes, although the dead bird population seemed unusually high. But why, even though each foray we pick up a few intact plastic water bottles (yes, they should be banned), styrofoam coolers (them too) and other obviously identifiable jetsam, are there so many of those itty bitty plastic polygons—blue and white and red?

Itty Bitty Plastic Photo from Scientific American

Maybe it’s tankers and trawlers who somehow grind up and pitch whatever they don’t want overboard? That was the theory of one local. I hope not. That became a crime in 1988 via international convention. Besides, according to the  Surfrider Foundation (www.surfrider.org) only 10% comes from this prime suspect. Fully 80% washes into the ocean from inland sources, the remaining 10% from river bank dumping. I guess the waves, currents, tides, all contribute to busting up plastic into littler pieces. But no amount of ocean action can make them disappear.

There are a few creative reusers out there. One is the Artula Institute for Arts and Environmental Education (www.washedashore.org) based just north in Bandon. Last week as I drove past I noticed their giant beach-plastic-constructed eagle, usually in front of the studio, was gone. I see it and other Washed Ashore creations are currently on exhibit at Portland Community College (http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/04/portland_community_college_to_1.html)

Another is Soar: a kid-based education project designed to save our oceans and watersheds, which grew out of a concern for the hundreds of  Albatross killed by plastics annually. Its leader, Ron Hirschi, identified one strange item I’ve found in profusion, a plastic cylinder with a tasseled end, apparently spent shotgun shells.(http://soaronhirschi.blogspot.com/2010/01/where-does-plastic-come-from-year-end.html)

Beach Plastic with Spent Shotgun Shells photo courtesy of Ron Hirschi

Whatever from wherever, these plastic pseudo-pebbles come to rest on our beaches. Depending on storms and tides and coastal geography there are more or less of them. Still they are never not there. While I’d like to believe all of us beach picker-uppers will make a dent (today we filled both sacks), some days I’m not so sure.

Today’s prize? an intact fluorescent light tube. Go figure.

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Over 3300 people picked up 45,381 total pounds of trash from Oregon’s beaches including 1,957 pounds recycled, and 41 tires. (I’m proud to say we picked up one of those tires.)

Special kudos to the 85 folks in Brookings who hauled 1800 pounds of trash (much of it from March 11th’s tsunami) from their beaches, including a yacht (!) which had broken loose from its moorings.

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Saturday was Oregon Beach Clean Up Day. All along the coast volunteers turned out in rain gear and gloves to spend a few hours bent over on the shore, picking up the plastic their fellow humans have tossed “away.” Of course, for plastic there really is no “away.” It always seems to come back.

In 1984, SOLV, an Oregon nonprofit (tag line “It’s our nature to volunteer” www.solv.org/), organized this event: the first ever in the world, statewide volunteer beach pick up. It’s been a semiannual event ever since. They’ve divided the coast into 14 segments; Port Orford, is in Zone 13, a 30 mile stretch from the Sixes River to Ophir Beach.

South of Hubbard Creek © SR Euston

Beach Clean Up © SR Euston

Armed with heavy duty (recycled) white bags emblazoned with the green SOLV logo we headed just south of town to Hubbard Creek’s shoreline. Cresting the dunes we were sandblasted by the west wind, rained and hailed on. But the sun shown too. A typical Oregon Coast spring day.  All total, we picked up six huge trash bags of mostly plastic water bottles (arghh) and busted up styrofoam. Best tools? Bucket and a pair of Playtex™ Living™ Gloves. My favorite “treasures”? A waterlogged basketball, a beat-up hubcap with a Mustang logo I snatched at the foam line, and an aluminum 300 ml. screw top bottle inscribed in Japanese typography except for its name: Pocari Sweat.  Online I discovered it’s a metabolite replacement drink (like Gatorade) manufactured in Japan and sold throughout the Pacific Rim and Middle East. A completely legible “gift” from at least 5000 ocean miles away. What I took to be a tiny coupon was still attached.

Where does all this garbage come from? Obviously everywhere: boats, streets, back yards,  worldwide negligence. Lots of junk, running off the continents, ends up far out in the great Pacific garbage gyre. It’s believed big chucks break off in winter storms, drift on currents, and wind up here on our beaches. Want to know more? Here’s a 2008  extended PBS Newshour feature: www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/july-dec08/plasticocean_11-13.html

Only got 30 seconds? Check out this SOLV YouTube video: www.solv.org/volunteers/marine_debris.asp

Once they’re available, I’ll report clean up stats.

Clean Beach © SR Euston

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