Time for Beach Spring Cleaning
Nearly 5000 SOLVE volunteers cleared more than 56,000 pounds of litter from beaches along the Oregon coast in the 34th annual SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup held April 1, 2017. SOLVE is a non-profit organization that works actively to keep Oregon clean. They organize over 1000 events each year for volunteers to help SOLVE achieve their mission of bringing Oregonians together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship.
SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon
David and I participated in the beach cleanup event in Yachats. It is a BYOB affair. Bring Your Own Bucket. We expected to be teamed with others and sent to a specific area. Upon checking in at the Yachats’s Chamber of Commerce office we learned we were on our own to just pick a location. I also selected a data sheet to document the trash I found. Tracking what type of trash helps SOLVE better understand what kinds of debris is found on our beaches and waterways.
Whoa, Cowboy. Check it out!
Following check in, we returned home and set out on the 804 Trail for the sandy beach near our house. As we walked past the rocky cove where I like to watch logs being tossed in the surf during high tide I spotted a bit of trash out on the lava bank. Since the tide was safely out I was able to clamber down the rocks to pick up the piece of plastic that I had originally spied. Well, then I spied several smaller pieces of plastic. Red, yellow, blue, white, green, black; pieces of color were strewn randomly about. Then, I found a little tide pool covered with small pieces of driftwood and, you guessed it, lots of small pieces of plastic. It became apparent that we had accidently selected our cleanup spot because in every direction we looked we found some form of debris.
We found several items that were individually listed on the data sheet. Frequently tossed items like bottle caps and plastic lids were in abundance. I found a plastic spoon and a drinking straw and a cigar tip, also on the list. My husband scored by finding a toothbrush (the final SOLVE count totaled 40 toothbrushes found that day). He also found a large plastic drain grate, the largest piece we listed on the data sheet.
What was most overwhelming were the numbers of small pieces of plastic we felt compelled to pick up. Pieces of plastic smaller than a quarter and many that were smaller than a dime. The small pieces are what birds eat as they mistakenly identify it as food.
You might get a work out
We were forced to use care as we walked because the rocks were wet and sometimes slippery. Constant bending, and in some cases, sitting in weird positions at tide pools with a strainer, took its toll on our bodies. We were feeling the pain of unused muscles and the occasional; “Ohhh!” could be heard across the lava bank from which we worked.
Sadly, we located an expired seal that the tide had washed in. A fresh victim of nature’s cycle so there was no smell of decay. One black crow sat patiently on the bank waiting for us to exit so he could enjoy a meal.
How much you say?
Three hours later we called an end to our excursion. We both had hundreds of pieces of plastic of varying sizes in our buckets. Our combined tally totaled nearly 800 pieces of plastic smaller than a quarter. It was disturbing to think that a few hours later, after the next high tide, the area would be once again strewn with items similar in size and number to what we had just retrieved.
I find myself looking at ocean waves differently after my experience that day. The beautiful waves that are mesmerizing and help bring calm to my soul also hold plastic and debris that are harming our sea life and environment. It is one thing to read about plastic in our ocean, but to immerse oneself in cleaning it up is a mind-bending experience.
“Every piece of trash….”
Afterwards, I couldn’t help but feel that my little bit of effort didn’t make much of an impact. In reading an account of our collective accomplishment from the April 1 clean up, I came across a statement by Maureen Fisher, the CEO of SOLVE to KOIN6 TV station. “Every piece of trash picked up today has a tremendous impact on the health of Oregon’s wildlife and coastal communities.”
I can feel relieved that my effort is definitely worth it. I have resolved to take my trusty bucket and colander out to the lava cove on a regular basis. How much trash can one person pick up in one year?
Have you ever participated in a SOLVE event? Will you?