Hidden Pictures: Marine Debris
Last weekend Drips Water and friends woke up bright and early and participated in California’s largest volunteer event: Coastal Cleanup Day. We cleaned up our local beach Torrey Pines State Beach, but some volunteers cleaned inland lakes and rivers, or even under the water on scuba! Each year the types of trash and weights of trash collected are carefully recorded and converted into data used by marine scientists and government agencies. With data from 70% of the sites already sent in, we know that there were over 51,000 volunteers this year that collected roughly 500,000 pounds of trash (30,000+ pounds of recyclable materials). That’s a lot of trash!
What overwhelmed us the most was not how much trash we saw, but how much trash that we weren’t seeing at first. “People were working to collect the most trash in pounds while I was noticing the tiniest pieces of broken down plastic in the sand. These are the pieces the animals eat, so these are what I worked to clean up,” said Mary Turk, the founder of Drips Water. In fact to prove her point she took this picture.
How many pieces of trash do you see here?
Believe it or not there are actually 5 pieces. To make it easier to see we dug them out a bit and here they are:
Why is this hidden trash harmful to the ocean?
- Each year we see various marine animals including birds, fish, and turtles washing up dead on our shores with stomachs full of plastic. They confuse pieces of plastic for small fish, jellyfish, and plankton.
- There are places in the middle of our oceans (gyres) where plastic collects and outnumbers plankton. In the Pacific Gyre plastic outnumbers plankton by a ratio of 6:1.
- 80% of the trash on the beach travels through the storm-drain system, to the ocean, and then washes back on our shores.
It’s amazing how something that can’t actually move ends up traveling farther and “living” longer (since it doesn’t biodegrade) than most people do. So pick up trash, even if it’s not yours. You’d be surprised where it might end up.
Author: Shannon Walker
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