Volunteers gather on the shores of some of the nation’s oldest national treasures to fish trash out of the water and off the beach. Plastic bags, dog waste and metal cans are just some of the more than twenty items that are recorded by the Blue Ocean Society of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Armed with gloves and plastic bags, Cooper and I set out to pitch in and reclaim the waste that is ignorantly discarded or purposely overlooked.
Dr. Richard Bailey, executive director of a working volunteer group in California, is most concerned about the plastic bags that get waterlogged and sink to the bottom. “We have a lot of animals that live on the bottom: shrimp, shellfish, sponges,” he says. “It’s like you’re eating at your dinner table and somebody comes along and throws a plastic tarp over your dinner table and you.”
My son, Cooper and I, fished more than 10 plastic bags out of the bay, 8 piles of dog waste of the beach along with cigarette butts, candy wrappers and a soccer ball. As we worked, numerous passersby thanked us for our efforts; Cooper smiled and thanked them back. There are billions more where those came from and as a result, our oceans are in trouble
The plastic bag is a symbol of convenience, the single most abundant consumer item on Earth, numbering in the trillions. Made from petroleum or natural gas the environmental impacts of the manufacturing process are numerous and studies show that some bags contain lead, proven to damage the brain, kidneys, and reproductive system, cause birth defects, slow growth, and cause hearing problems
Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags each year wasting nearly 12 million barrels of oil. Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide — about 2 percent in the U.S. — and the rest persist for centuries. “They’re so aerodynamic that even when they’re properly disposed they can still blow away and become litter,” says Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste.
Go to any parade and you will see several wash into the nearby by waterway. Plastic bags have been found in the bellies of albatrosses in remote areas. Floating bags look like jellyfish to hungry marine mammals. Research suggests that more than a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die every year from plastic encounters. There are 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of ocean. In the Northern Pacific Gyre, a great vortex of ocean currents, there is now a swirling mass of plastic that is estimated to be twice the size of Texas.
Ireland has a 22-cent tax on plastic bags has reduced use by more than 90 percent. In Bangladesh, where plastic bags cause flooding by choking off drainage, the bags are banned. San Francisco and Oakland outlawed the use of plastic bags permitting only paper bags with at least 40 percent recycled content. Meanwhile, other communities across the country, including Santa Monica, Calif., New Haven, Conn., Annapolis, Md., and Portland, Ore., are considering taking drastic legislative action against the bags.
The problem with plastic bags is they last forever. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade.
That isn’t the only problem dog, waste doesn’t last forever but still causes big problems as Cooper and I learned during the beach cleanup. Reusable groceries bags are one solution to the plastic invasion. Invest in some quality shopping bags, the whales and dolphins thank-you.