By Terri Estes
Picture a beautiful, pristine beach with white sand and sparkling blue water and bright blue skies above. Now think of that same beach cluttered with plastic bags and globs of tar and old beer cans with cigarette butts strewn all around. Yeah, it kind of saddens our happy picture. For every one of us who cleans up after themselves and take their trash with them, there is someone else who, for whatever reason, does not do the same.
Maybe they forgot. Maybe their trash got blown away by a strong wind and they couldn’t catch it. Or maybe they placed their garbage in the cans on the beach that are always overflowing, and the trash tumbled into the ocean. Perhaps they are slobs and do not care about their surroundings or our environment. Whatever the reason, they still do it every day and although it is not our garbage, unfortunately, it becomes our problem.
Not only is this garbage unsightly, but it is also unhealthy for our marine life and shore birds. How many times have you seen a seagull with fishing line wrapped around their feet, or a hook protruding from their mouth? I know that I have seen it many times.
Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags and balloons for jellyfish, which is one of their favorite delicacies. The outlook for turtles who swallow plastic bags is bleak. Ingesting just one plastic bag can cause intestinal blockage and death. Thousands of sea creatures and shore birds die each year from ingesting plastic or getting tangled in it. We can all do our part to keep our beautiful beaches clean and healthy. Pick up a piece of trash, even if it isn’t yours.
There is a great mobile app called “Clean Swell” that makes it easy for anyone to have a positive impact on our ocean. When you head to your local beach, take a few minutes and use the app to record each item of trash you collect. This helps scientists around the world tackle ocean trash on a global scale. According to “Clean Swell,” the top six items collected in 2020 were: 1 – cigarette butts (964,521), 2 – plastic bottles (627,014), 3 – other trash (593,438), 4 – food wrappers: candy, chips, etc. (573,534), 5- bottle caps (409,855), 6 – plastic bags (272,399).
Let’s all be a part of the solution and not the problem. A good motto to follow is to leave no trace behind. And just think, if we all picked up one item on our way back from the beach, what a difference we could make!
FUN ANIMAL FACT:
A leatherback sea turtle can eat over 600 lion mane jellyfish a day.