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Save Our Shores

August 19, 2010

By Jennifer Chaky

I took a joyous day off recently and visited friends at Lavalette Beach with my daughter. Despite the perfect weather and wonderful company, a greenie like me just couldn’t fully relax.  I was too focused on every bit of plastic that I saw littering the beach and the surrounding area. I could not help but think about where this plastic was likely to end up–in the ocean, carried by the currents far out to where it is churned and broken down into non-biodegradable bits so small that they get mistaken for plankton by sea creatures, whose stomachs are so full of these plastic particles that they eventually die from it. Birds, fish, and other sea life eat these bits and either starve or die of dehydration. And you can bet that this waste ends up in our bodies too when we eat from the sea. It is so bad that the ratio of plastic to life in the seas is 6:1. Our waste is turning up in the most remote corners of the planet, including islands that no humans inhabit.

That sounds crazy, but after my visit to the beach yesterday I had no doubt. The beach we were on was a relatively clean one, where people seemed to be conscious of using the trash cans. But even on this comparatively litter-free beach, I could easily pick up a trash bag full of plastic waste in just a mere 50 sq. foot area. It was everywhere–little bits of wrappers, straws, bottle caps galore, cigarette butts (yes, with plastic fibers in them)-all kinds of debris that blew out of trash cans or away from the blankets of the people who brought the waste to the beach.

So I ask: Is it worth it to bring any plastic to the beach? No matter how careful you may be, things get left behind, or blown away. I say it’s better to not even bring anything that may add to the burden on our oceans. If you bring food to the beach, leave wrappers at home and pack it in stainless steel or tempered glass containers, use a stainless steel beverage bottle, and reusable utensils. Or at the very least, make sure any packaging or picnicware is biodegradable–made from vegetable starch instead of petroleum plastics. That way if something does end up in the ocean it will eventually biodegrade.

It makes no sense to destroy that which brings us so much pleasure and joy. We have to be more vigilant on our beach outings!

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