What I found on the Oregon beach sickened me

186

By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR
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.

Looking down in front of me. This area is roughly about 16 inches wide.

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.

Dead albatross with plastic filled stomach.

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.

This is dinner for some sea creatures.

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:

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Crowman
2 months ago

Here’s a fact for you 90 percent of that plastic comes from Asian countries not the USA.

Linda Pence
2 months ago

My area doesn’t offer recycling. To recycle you have to take it to the one dumpster I know of in the area to do so. There some people use it to drop off their regular trash so they don’t have to pay for trash removal. Very frustrating. Aluminum can recycling bins are common because they can be turned in for cash. If there was a means for doing that with paper, plastic and glass we’d see more recycling.

Robert Porter
10 months ago

Until we get smart and return to paper and glass for our disposables there will be no stopping plastic pollution. Our beaches, oceans, woods and neighborhoods will only get worse. That is the harsh reality of our future.

Merrily
10 months ago

that beach (and many others) needs a raking and pick up with a huge scoop shovel (snow shovel) in a huge garbage bag, probably daily!!
🙁

Sharan K Harrison
10 months ago

Who is throwing plastic into the ocean? Doesn’t trash go to a local landfill?…. To be buried? I take all my plastic to recycling. Are the Cruise ships dumping plastic into the ocean? Military ships? China? I am sickened by this destruction. But I would like to know just exactly how this plastic waste is getting into the ocean.

Jack Putnam
10 months ago

If you appreciate Chuck’s comments about plastics pollution and are near Bandon, Ore, a must-stop is a non-profit called Washed Ashore where you can see some spectacular art, all made from plastics and other refuse picked up from the nearby beaches, and you can help make it if you wish. Some for sale, but the large pieces are used for national and international exhibition about waste plastics.

Austin Crehan
10 months ago

I won’t write a tome. I will say I am in favor of our country using less plastic. I would love to see fewer plastic bags, less plastic containers, etc.
I know. Nothing is perfect.

Hector Torres
10 months ago

I saw a documentary about the countries that are causing this mess. Indonesia has no regulations or dump sites to bury the trash, so the villages dump it on the side of rivers. when they have floods this trash goes in the river and out the ocean. But its not only them. China, India, and the Philippines just to name a few. This poor countries are always left out of any U.N. treaties and the problem can’t be solved unless they change their ways.

Paul
2 months ago
Reply to  Hector Torres

I wouldn’t consider China, India and the Philippines as poor countries. This trash is being dumped intentionally into the oceans by those countries because it is cheaper to do so than building sanitary landfills. Everybody in the US could refuse to buy anything with plastic and it wouldn’t make a dent in the problem since it is not the US doing the dumping.

Sandy
10 months ago

What about huge, have to be paid, fines for corporations and individuals for tossing trash?

Mike
10 months ago

Please checkout https://washedashore.org/ My family visited their Hometown Exhibit in Bandon, Oregon during our families annual vacation Made big impact on us We will now carry bags to the beach to help clean up. Love how they make beautiful art out the trash found

Mark B
10 months ago

Here’s my response to the person who observed trash on the shores of Lake Superior.

I always try to tie my comments back to RV travels. I camped at a nice, city owned campground on Lake Superior’s edge in Two Harbors, MN, Burlington Bay. It is a nice stopping point as you visit all the beautiful sites along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.

That area has a dumping history. We won’t go into the ramifications of mining waste produced just up road at Sliver Bay, where we Americans for 25 years dumped the equivalent of a railroad car of waste every minute into Lake Superior and the fibers in that waste made their way to nearby town of Duluth’s drinking water. This was an American family run company since the 1890s. Nope, no Chinese involved in that mess. You can read more of how Americans pillaged our waters here:
http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2003/09/29_hemphills_reservehistory/

But wait, could China be involved with garbage on Lake Superior? The Chinese invested in a joint operation with the Cleveland-Cliffs Mining company in 2003 (for 5 years) so I am sure we can blame them for something.

And, the Great Lakes are connected by canals all the way to the Atlantic, despite Lake Superior, our planet’s largest fresh water lake, being bordered by Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Boats easily navigate to pick up the ore from the harbor on Lake Superior. In fact, I am might have seen a boat with a Chinese looking flag (there was some red in it) on Lake Superior dumping garbage. Maybe it was before they loaded the boat with iron ore pellets? Or maybe it was fishing nets? And maybe it was Canadians, their flag has red and you know a lot of Asians live in Canada. Do the facts really matter?

Yes, China has a waste problem, as does every industrialized country with a reasonable standard of living emulating our consumer throw-away society.

China became the world’s dumping ground and had to turn off the spigot. And yes, they have dumped trash into the ocean (and are cleaning it up). Our environmental record is pretty bad…no really, really bad. We have our own trash to pick up. Now we have even more of our own trash because China no longer accepts ours.

Please stop repeating some reference to a headline grabbing sensational story and focus on what YOU can do to prevent and eliminate all the waste YOU create.

John
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

Excellent finish to your article and one we should all endeavor to follow. I, for one am happy to pay .25 cents a glass to drink out of biodegradable plastic Margarita glass (and do, when I go to the Cayman’s). However, are you trying to make a point that a 20-year pollution history 50 years ago has anything to do with who is polluting today? I, for one am PROUD of what we did in the 1970’s and 1980’s to clean up the environment. Today, no one even knows what “acid rain” is. Nor have I heard of any rivers that have caught on fire. Let’s stick to Plastic and the article in question. Oregon is subject to the California Current, fed by the North Pacific Current, fed by the Kuroshio current from China. My family in Alaska complains about the same thing. This North Pacific current splits and feeds the California Current to the South and the Alaska Current to the North. We can outlaw every bit of plastic in America and it will have the same effect as spitting into a bonfire and the beaches of Oregon will continue to fill up with plastic.

The answer? In my imperfect and humble opinion, cleanup technology to reverse the trend coupled with making the countries that pollute pay through Tariffs on their exported products. This is similar to space junk (this is the junk that will make it impossible to have a satellite in orbit by the year 2090 even if we did not launch one satellite between now and then) imagine that?

PeterD
10 months ago

Isaiah 51:6 pretty much sums things up.

Geoff
10 months ago

As R.R. Tones said below;
Check out where most of the larger coastal cities in North America dump their raw garbage.

All those barges you see heading out to sea are full of garbage.
Let’s clean-up our own backyards before we bi*ch and complain about Asia.

Jeffrey Meyers
10 months ago
Reply to  Geoff

I live in a large coastal city on the Atlantic (Virginia Beach/ Norfolk) and we have landfills and waste to energy plants, we don’t send our trash out to sea. (Google Mt. Trashmore) New York does….doesn’t surprise me that NY wants to legislate everything and not take responsibility for their own waste –

TLT
10 months ago

I heard about a plastic eating bacteria some time ago…it sounds encouraging…. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/16/scientists-accidentally-create-mutant-enzyme-that-eats-plastic-bottles

Glenn E. Bindley
10 months ago

This is a Worldwide problem. I saw an article from Australia using huge nets around large drainage outlets. It may not be the solution, but it is a start.
Australia has found a great way to eliminate plastic pollution from its waterways, which we should be guided by
By Phillippe Blot
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John Cocking
10 months ago

…and people think “sea salt” is an healthier alternate to common mined salt? Trying to do our bit, but it seems like a drop in the ocean.

nick
10 months ago

This falls under government’s negligence not doing anything, just like UL. making light bulbs and lamps burn out too early that goes into landfills containing mercury contaminating the water tables , alkaline batteries too , instead of simple fixes they say driving electric vehicles that charge from power plants that run on fossil fuels, and charging us a taxes to recycle plastic wich they fail to do and pocket the tax money . The Kate Brown says raising fuel prices is the solution, I could go on but I want to think about something that makes sense , this is upsetting.

Mark B
10 months ago
Reply to  nick

Yes, I’ve heard the government is holding guns to peoples’ heads forcing them to buy plastic products, especially all those disposable plastic bottles for water. No, that’s wrong, it’s the Chinese government. Yeah, that’s it.

John
10 months ago
Reply to  nick

The government had nothing to do with light bulb planned obsolescence. It was an Industry cabal. http://www.centennialbulb.org/photos.htm

Greg
10 months ago

Better then the sharp needles that go into your feet in Asbury Park, N.J.

Connie
10 months ago

Thought I’d offer this here: If you aren’t able to be oceanside and pick up the trash yourself (I’m not), then take a look at 4ocean.com . It’s NOT a non-profit – it’s a business that cleans up the ocean in all waterfront countries around the world, using locals to do the labor, and then with recyclable plastics and glass, create beaded bracelets for sale to pay the locals and continue their operations.

You’ll get no tax benefit, but your purchases will help people all over the world clean up the plastic disasters that should be clean, sandy beaches and water.

L Brown
10 months ago

Thank you for the article Chuck. Sad but true. I saw the same thing at Lake Superior in Oct 2018. It will take a coordinated effort of clean up and waste reduction to solve our plastic problem. We must ALL do our part.