The Coastal Star

Editorial: Plastic litter a lethal ingredient in ocean life

When the tide is low and the sand is damp and made for walking, there’s nothing I love more than taking a long, long stroll along the shore.
    I’ve lived near the beach for more than 25 years so my house is a testament to my love of the shore: seashells and beach glass fill jars and windowsills.
    I’ve found curious items during my walks — some printed with foreign languages, some seemingly tossed overboard and a few obviously of an illegal nature.
    But it seems that these days, the thing I find the most is plastic: sheets of Visqueen, wrappers from bags of ice, water and soda bottles, lengths of rope (all sizes) and lots and lots of straws.
    As I walk along this time of year and count the turtle tracks, all I can think is how these items must appear floating in the ocean. No doubt, they look a lot like jellyfish and other favorite turtle food. How many endangered turtles succumb to these deadly apparitions?
    Thankfully we have local groups who voluntarily pick up trash from our beaches. But they depend on volunteers and can’t be on all of our beaches with any real regularity. They are to be applauded, but what they pick up is just a drop in the sand pail of the plastic that washes ashore each day.
    Also to be applauded is the Delray Beach Commission. At its June 21 meeting there was discussion on a proposal to allow sales of bottled water at the municipal beach. Luckily, we’ve elected officials who use that beach and understand concerns about plastics on our shores and in our ocean. They voted this down.
    As one person, it feels naïve to believe I can make a difference: I’m trying to reduce my plastic consumption. I recycle. I find littering to be abhorrent and I’ve started picking up the plastic I find along the shore.
    Still, I hang on to the idea that maybe I can save one turtle, and maybe that one turtle will return to lay her eggs, and maybe those eggs will safely incubate in dry sand.
    And maybe on my morning walk I’ll find the signature waterfall of tiny hatchling tracks heading back into the sea. 
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor

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Comment by Robyn Halasz on July 12, 2011 at 9:47am

We do monthly cleanups at Ocean Inlet Park.  I go every week to the inlet to cleanup as well as our monthly cleanup and unfortunately there is not lack of litter.  We pride ourselves on doing green cleanups and we recycle as much litter as possible and again there seems to be no shortage.  By being out there  people will come up and help put litter in my bucket and I think if there is a presence out there cleaning up  it does inspire others to do the same.  Kathy mentioned education being key and I couldn't agree with her more but it's also taking the extra step and cleaning up litter in a responsible way for example recycling what you can.  Postings like yours help those of us trying to bring awareness to this worldwide problem and that help is always needed.  We are have been lucky that not only our co-founders, such as Kathy, are very dedicated but our volunteers really seem to put their heart into the cause and appreciate the seriousness of this problem.  We leave less of a carbon footprint behind and we hope others will follow suit when enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Robyn A. Halasz

Founder of  Sea Angels

www.seaangels.org

Cleaner Beaches in a Greener Way

Comment by Kathy Silverio on July 11, 2011 at 1:20am

Mary,  What a great editorial. I amazed that the amount of trash that we find at our beach clean-ups. I sometimes wonder what people are thinking when they do litter. The majority of the litter does not decompose and their is no one coming to clean it up. The cities that do have the funds only rake it into the sand which just contaminates our beaches. At our June clean-up alone we collected 210 pounds of recyclables.  Thank you for writing about this issue. I can only hope that with articles like yours and the beach clean-up groups getting the word out that we will make a difference. Education is key to stopping the littering cycle.  

 

Kathy Silvero

Co-Founder

Sea Angels

A group dedicated to to helping protect our beaches and waters in a green way. 

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