Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Collection Report May 6, 2011

May 6, 9:30AM. Seems a lifetime ago. Sunny skies, 60 degrees, and a surprisingly relaxed wander on the beach just a few hours before beginning my trans-Atlantic adventure. Plus, I was joined by a young beachcomber-in-training.
Have pail, will travel
The restless energy that builds up inside Mainers over a long winter needs its escape. And where better than the shore? Seems somebody else had agreed.
[I] feel a spirit kindred to my own/
So that henceforth I worked no more alone

-- Robert Frost, "The Tuft of Flowers"
The days of solitude are fading. And there's more than footprints in the sand to remind you that yours is not a road less-traveled.
Intact shovel #5 for the collection -- completely buried under
kelp clump. Beachcombers: Always kick the kelp!
It had been another week of energy. A steep slope to the beach, new cusps carved from the northeast toward the southwest. Fresh seaweed -- mostly rockweed/knotted wrack. Curiously, little plastic tied up among it. Could it be brand new spring growth that hasn't floated around long enough to catch debris?

Well, let's see the breakdown. Zone N:
48 finds:
  • Building materials: 16 (11 asphalt chunks, 3 brick bits, 2 wooden posts/slats)
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 3
  • Fishing misc.: 7 (5 rope scraps, scrap of lobster trap, vinyl trap coating)
  • Food-related plastics: 6 (3 straws, bottle cap, 2 baggie tags)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 2 (sea glass)
  • Non-food/unknown plastics: 7 (tampon applicator, kite package, silly band, bag scrap, lid rim, small screw cap, 1 scrap < 1")
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 2
  • Paper/wood: 2 (sparkler sticks)
  • Misc./unique: 3 (aluminum scrap (maybe building mtrl?), leather shoe sole, string)
Tops on the yuck list:
4th applicator in the past 2 months
These are almost certainly entering a river from storm drains and riding the currents to the shore. There's no way to tell which river. Not that it really matters. It's still something that shouldn't be sharing the beach with our kids. Please remember, there is usually -nothing- separating your town's storm drains from the ocean. If you lose it in the gutter, it will end up on a beach. Your beach, your neighbor's, some poor soul's across several time zones. There is no "away."

On to Zone S:
43 finds:
  • Building materials: 17 (11 asphalt chunks, 2 brick bits, tile, 2 wood shingles, fence slat)
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 9 (inc. large wedge with grass shoved/growing through it??)
  • Fishing misc.: 2 (claw band, trap coating)
  • Food-related plastics: 1 (safety pulltab for water bottle)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 1 (sea glass)
  • Non-food/unknown plastics: 6 (1970s PVC "linoleum" floor tile scrap, Clorox label, shrinkwrap bottle thermo-seal, "Eagle Claw" fishing hook package top, intact orange shovel (not in pic -- in daughter's collection), 1 scrap < 1")
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 4
  • Paper/wood: 2 (sparkler sticks)
  • Misc./unique: 1 (string)
OK. What's the story here?
Nature, or nurture?
And how many of these things were likely left behind by beachgoers?
Maybe someone bleached their
old PVC "linoleum" beach blanket?
An ugly 40-year-old plastic floor tile persists, just as this year's plastic Clorox label. And why is that label even plastic? Is it because it looks shiny & crisp in a grocery aisle, enticing people to buy it? If so, how does it look now, Clorox Company?

Anyway, doing a full collection with a 4-year-old in tow is tricky business. Even so, I managed to scoop 91 pieces of junk off the ground. (Though I may do a rethink about asphalt once I hit my 1-year anniversary in June.) There was plenty of evidence of thoughtless beachgoing. But there's also continuing proof that what reaches our shores didn't always start on our shores.

My new motto is: "If it isn't made of plastic, it will be." And the consequences of this are becoming clearer every day. As is the choice: stop it, or drown in it.


  1. Hi there. My wife Alma and I came across you blog. We are dedicated beachcombers on a stretch of Pacific Ocean beach in Venice and Marina del Rey.

    My wife is an artist who specializes in assemblage art. Lately she has been creating works of art using materials we scavenge from our beach.

    We find enormous amounts of plastic detritus and other manmade garbage on this stretch of beach and wanted you to know you have some fellow travellers out here on the West Coast.

    You can track our wonderings and gleanings on my blog ("AYearAtVeniceBeach.blogspot.com"). I look forward to reading more of your work.

  2. My wife Alma tried to post a comment here about her efforts to reclamate our beach here. But Blogspot would not let her post it and would not let her log on to her gmail account.