What I Did, and How I Did It

For two years, from June 2010 to June 2012, I kept a weekly account of all the debris I recovered from two stretches of a small public beach in Saco, Maine. In that time I recovered over 15,000 pieces of manmade garbage. The ups and downs of what came in, and when, will hopefully be of use to scientists trying to study currents, tides, the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, and perhaps other angles not yet thought up. It's presented below:

On June 15, 2010, I started picking up trash at a quiet local beach in Saco, Maine, called "Bay View" (coords: 43 29'06.90"N x 70 23'07.68"W according to Google Earth).
For two years I tried to visit the beach once a week, picking up all the trash I could see in two specific zones, which I call Zone N(orth) and Zone S(outh):
Zone N is closest to the public parking lot, and tends to be the busiest stretch of beach. By contrast, Zone S sits beyond a patio with prominent "Private Only" signs, and gets much less traffic. By comparing the finds from both zones, I'm hoping to learn something about the debris that arrives at the beach both by regular beachgoers, and by actions of wave & wind.

My blog has recorded each week in detail, including pictures of the beach as I've found it and pictures of overall finds (as well as maybe a few standouts).

On June 7, 2011, I finished my first full year collecting & analyzing. I found a grand total of 8456 items. Details, charts, and a bit of discussion here and here. My work was picked up by "Scientific American" magazine, where I guest-blogged about the results on September 5, 2011.

My Year 2 at Bay View began on June 20, 2011, and finished on June 23, 2012. For all of Year 2, I found a grand total of 6765 items. The running count of Year 2 is below:
Grand total collected from Bay View for the two years June 2010 - June 2012: 15221 pieces. The similarities and differences between Year 1 and Year 2 are striking. The seasonal trends also have places where they meet and where they diverge wildly. As my Year 2 progressed, I commented throughout the weekly collection reports on why the change seemed to be happening. Soon I'll publish a fuller account.

This marks the end of my current work at Bay View. But not the end of the Flotsam Diaries. Since January I have been studying the massive wash-ins along a private, protected, untouristed beach known as Curtis Cove, about 5 miles south in the city of Biddeford. The amount of seaborne debris washing in there is, well, astounding. That will be the focus of my blog going forward.


  1. Your work is truly incredible. I admire your devotion to this project and documenting the trash that washes up on your local beach, the way you document and log your data is very informative and inspiring. I hope you do not mind If I feature your work on my blog?

    Please have a look, Commonfolk.eu
    I am working to raise awareness about plastic pollution here in Europe.

    Thank you for the time, energy and effort you put in to this.
    Tina Ziegler

    1. Hi Tina. Thanks much for the notes! I don't mind at all, I'd be honored to be featured. I love what you're doing, raising awareness & making a difference.

    I was passed your link by a coastal monitor/outreach coordinator as an active marine debris chronicler in Southern Maine and I can see why, your dedication to the issue is really great to see. I am an artist from the UK on a similar mission and wondered if I could ask for your help with my latest project. I am collecting soccer balls from as many different beaches from around the world as possible to raise awareness, and especially to get the world's youth switched on to the marine debris issue. Please see further info here, if you could forard on to anyone who may be able to help I would be very grateful;



    I am the photographer, Mandy Barker, internationally renowned for the project, SOUP, and am now collecting marine debris Footballs (round soccer balls) that have been found on beaches/washed up, for my next project. I am hoping to get footballs (even parts of will do) from as many different countries/beaches from around the world as possible. If you saw a ball washed up and would be willing to post it on to me in the UK, telling me where you found it (and could add an emailed pic of where you found it & date) I would be extremely grateful. I will of course pay all postage costs and in return send you a postcard of the final image which will include your ball!

    If you can help or know someone who could, please email me: info@mandy-barker.com for my postal address.

    Deadline for balls collected is end of March 2014.

    My work aims to engage the public by combining the contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction with the message of awareness about plastic marine pollution. To view my previous images please visit http://mandy-barker.com
    All footballs will be greatly received & thankyou for helping me to increase awareness of issue of marine pollution.


  3. Thought you might be interested in the tag I found on Chesil Beach, Dorset on the south coast of England. Yellow plastic with A1 0535 ME 08 ZG. Seems to be from a lobster pot off Maine. Do you agree?