By Chuck Woodbury
I love the Oregon Coast. U.S. 101 from north to south is surely one of the most beautiful highways in America, often hugging the stunning coastline. Pullouts are sometimes as close as a few miles apart, many of them small State Parks with picnic areas and trails leading to incredibly beautiful and often isolated beaches. State Parks with campgrounds are evenly spaced with plenty of room this time of year (not so in the summer). And for every State Park campground there are a dozen commercial RV parks and many county parks.
The beach pictured below is about 200 feet from my campsite near Newport. I took this photo on a morning walk. I was alone on the beach.
It was low tide, so there was a lot of marine debris left behind as you can see in the photo.
What you cannot see is the other debris — plastic — hundreds of thousands of pieces of it is my guess. It’s red, blue, green, purple, yellow, black, white and clear. Most pieces are the size of a dime or quarter. But some is smaller — button sized or even smaller. There are countless bottle caps.
The sight of it disgusted me. Seagulls and crows were picking at it. I’m not sure about here, but birds elsewhere are eating it. In the Marshall Islands, dead Albatross are everywhere, their stomachs so full of plastic there’s no room for food. The mothers feed it to their chicks.
What struck me this morning for the first time was that this stuff didn’t end up here from picnickers leaving their trash behind. It was in the ocean and floated in. How much more is out there? See the chart below for an idea.
I picked up about 100 pieces on my 20-minute walk. When I returned to the motorhome I emptied it on a dinner plate. That’s what you see below.
Later, I thought it was ironic that I placed it on a dinner plate. Scientists say we are all eating plastic every day — the fish we eat contain it — and we eat the fish. And it’s getting worse all the time.
I’ve visited the Oregon Coast at least a dozen times in my life. I have never seen the plastic pollution this bad. It horrified me so much today that I felt slightly nauseous. It scared me. Plastic does not rot away. It will be on earth long after you and I, our kids and our grandkids are gone. It will be here in 1,000 years. Plastic bottles can last 450 years.
Do yourself and everyone else a favor and quit buying disposable plastic bottles. And bring your own grocery bags to the store instead of using plastic bags.
Here are some facts about plastic from earthday.org: