Sunday, April 1, 2012

Collection Report March 19, 2012

Monday March 19, 11:00AM. An hour or so after high-tide. After a ridiculously warm weekend, signs of a heavily used beach.

Yet in spite of the disaster at the can, the beach itself weathered the onslaught well.
Another ridiculously weak tide:
Barely made it up the slope
And another dead, glassy sea:
Smooth enough to skate on
But a few items still managed to beach:
Vent released from derelict lobster trap
This vent is made of polyethylene or polypropylene -- light plastic that floats easily on the sea. The little fresh wrack that I found also was mostly floatable, with air bladders to stay on top of the ocean. Light plastic & light wrack -- both rare at Bay View this winter, but here this week. Is it because the air warmed so much that the difference between it and the chilled seawater is firing up internal waves? Sending energy through the ocean even when it's not visible on the surface? I wish I understood the mechanics better. At any rate, something's changed this week.

On to the count. Zone N:
50 finds:
  • Building materials: 14 (8 asphalt chunks, 4 brick, 2 roof tiles)
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 3
  • Fishing misc.: 6 (rope, trap tag, 3 vinyl trap scraps, claw band)
  • Food-related plastics: 4 (3 wrappers, old knife)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 2 (2 can scraps)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 10 (balloon, golfball, packaging, makeshift funnel, wallet insert, 3 scraps >1", 2 scraps <1")
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 6 (4 filters, 2 packaging)
  • Paper/wood: 4 (3 scraps, 1 packaging)
  • Misc./unique: 1 (grotty fabric/clothing)
Given the 70-degree weekend, the "local" plastic finds are really low. Even the knife was a wash-in.
Not sure how long that knife kicked around the sea. But most likely since at least the last good beach day of 2011. Plastic silverware is #6 plastic -- polystyrene that sinks gently in seawater. So the energy coming in to Bayview was both surface & seafloor energy this week.

Now down to Zone S, where a few other interesting things washed in:
49 finds:
  • Building materials: 7 (6 asphalt chunks, 1 roof shingle)
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 2
  • Fishing misc.: 21 (2 rope, trap vent, 15 vinyl trap scraps, trap tag, shotgun shell, very old claw band)
  • Food-related plastics: 0
  • Food-related metal/glass: 6 (3 can scraps, 1 sea glass, 2 foil wrappers)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 7 (baggie, packaging, large tire scrap, 2 rubberbands, tubing, 1 scrap >1")
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 5
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Misc./unique: 1 (leather offcut)
The trap vent floated in on top, as did the trap tag. The large chunk of rubber tire may also be fishing-related, perhaps as part of a bumper on the side of a boat.

And there was a whole batch of vinyl scraps from lobster traps along the wrackline. Vinyl is quite dense and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, so rolled & bounced its way up to shore. And this stuff is insidious.
As these scraps break down smaller & smaller, they bounce in front of animals with smaller & smaller brains, and are no doubt eaten by them. Vinyl is toxic to make, toxic to burn, and no doubt toxic inside a gut. At the untouristed cove I also study about 5 miles away, this is what greets me in the tide pools at low tide:
One of these things is not like the others...
Each lobster trap can shed 1,000 of these bits as it rusts away. With at least half a million derelict lobster traps likely on the seafloor, the number of vinyl scraps we, our kids, and our great-grandkids will have to deal with is staggering.

The beach is different every week I visit it. Yet one thing's is constant. In nearly two years of beachcombing the same exact shoreline, the number of times that I've come away with zero pieces of manmade litter: Zero.


  1. Future restaraunt fish menus will only have Recycling numbers 1-7 listed instead of the names of fish

  2. Future restaraunt fish menus - all fish will be smoked- due to millions of cigarette butts in all bodies of water.


  3. Your opening photo reminded me of a beach in Mass. where beach authorities stopped the practice of maintaining trash barrels, asking that beachgoers take their trash home for disposal. Sadly, folks just dumped their trash on the sand where the barrels used to be.

  4. Bernie, you crack me up! But sadly all too true too. Al, it's the big ongoing question. It's like goldfish in a tank -- the more trash cans they put out, the more they seem to keep getting overfilled. But I agree, the idea of carry-in/carry-out just doesn't work. It means that even good samaritans who take their time to pick up litter have no option but to carry other people's garbage home with them.