I participated in a beach clean-up a week ago. It was pretty amazing. The location was out in the Bolivar area of the Texas Gulf, just west of the jetty.
What was amazing is what I found or I should clarify, what I didn’t find. I found no glass (more on that later). I did not find paper, and there were almost no cans. What was abundant was all type of plastics.
Plastic caps were the top culprit. Next I would say were a variety of plastic items in general like bottles, ropes, nets, bags, shoes, forks, packaging, and some medical supplies. Some ball point pens, cups, and other food containers too. There was even a plastic toilet of some sort, probably from a boat.
The sargasso had more things buried in it but we managed to clean up the place quite nicely. Someone in the group found a pelican with an injured wing roaming around waiting for someone to capture it and take it in, the reason why it was now considered one of the locals since no brave soul dared to try. Maybe that’s why there were several large dead fish carcasses there too.
I later moved over to the jetty. Several fishermen and women were casting their lines sitting in folding chairs or standing and enjoying the breeze and sunshine. I found an old fishing rod among the sargasso and was using it to fish things out from among the granite stones. This is where all the bottles were. Beer bottles I should say. They were on the east side of the jetty. There were a few aluminum cans as well. An old sneaker and some junk food wrappers but mostly the bottles were the number one culprit here.
Where would all the bags of collected trash going to go next? Would they go live the rest of their days in a dump or at a recycling facility? It seemed to me that it was like a game of Chinese checkers. The items are moved from here (manufacturer, store, user) to there (home, trash, dump–legal or illegal) but they don’t really go away. The lack of accountability for the things we create and dump is certainly there.
What if the value of these items were greater? What if the raw material were scarcer or the cost to produce the item was so high that we would receive the return of a deposit for delivering back the empty or used item? Then many of these trash items we found at the beach would not just be cast out so easily to let the ocean take them away.
So this trash is not really gone. The question is how will we better deal with these wasted resources to avoid wasting energy and material to create disposable (but not biodegradable) products that don’t go away, really.