I was a teen in the fifties.
I joined the Marines in 1959 and aboard ship, I’d hear over the speakers, “Now hear this. Give her a clean sweep down fore and aft, empty all trash over the fantail.” It was a routine announcement.
Yes, back then the ocean was considered a bottomless receptacle for our trash, a water-bin thought to eventually dissolve all that was placed within. Nothing to concern ourselves about.
Sadly, today some of us still, toss our trash “over the fantail”, we just do it one piece at a time.
April is Earth month and Sunday, April 22nd was Earth Day, some six decades since my early years at sea.
Cheryl and I had out-of-state visitors to Long Beach, her sisters, Kathy and Linda.
As the ladies looked for shells and stones to take back home they were very alert for beach litter too.
As we strolled our shore we came upon a group of student planet stewards. This group of four young men and two ladies were trekking our shore to remove the detritus that some on our planet either left behind on the beach or tossed overboard on the ocean.
Beach litter, tidewrack, can be nasty stuff. Some tidewrack on our shore is paper and cardboard but much of it is aluminum cans, glass bottles, styrofoam, plastic bags, plastic bottles, balloons, and fishing line, all non-dissolvable.
It’s ugly in our environment, sure but it is also dangerous to our wildlife. Shorebirds get tangled in plastic bags, six-pack rings, ribbons, and fishing line. Plastic straws are known to kill sea turtles. And it stays in our environment way, way, long after we’ve done using it.
Would you strangle an oystercatcher with your bare hands? Of course not. Then why do it with a plastic bag?
Over the decades, plastic, while a boon to container service has proved to be a bane for planet earth.
Plastic bags can take 20 years to decompose at sea, plastic straws, up to 200 years, plastic bottles can survive for 450 years. We’re heading for a “plasticized” planet, folks.
Glass can survive decomposition for a million years. It is really sand and easily recycled into new glass. So why throw it away, why not recycle it?
I picked up a four-ounce plastic bottle from the sand that Sunday. Do we really need this petit convenience in the first place? Why not carry a small thermos? Too much trouble?
This pollutant which oh so temporarily slaked a mini thirst today can become flotsam in our home for decades. But if you must have one, can’t you at least find a receptacle to put it in? If not, consider crushing it until you can find a receptacle, or take it home. Just don’t toss it…even if nobody is looking.
Styrofoam cups. Depending on circumstances, they too can take up to one million years to decompose. But they do break down into small pieces before that, pieces that can be ingested by animals choking them or clogging their digestive systems: https://tinyurl.com/styr-brkdwn
In the Pacific, midway between Hawaii and California, there is a floating island comprised of what some say is 80 thousand tons of plastic trash. Some estimates make the patch twice the size of Texas. Others say the patch is a wide band of microbeads of plastic and other plastic flotsam. Half of it is fishing related: nets, monofilament line, rope, etc. Does exact size matter? It shouldn’t be there. It’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans, by weight…than fish.
Straws, plastic straws, do we really need them? Hey, germaphobes, when you’re at a diner do you ask for a straw with your soda…or water? You don’t ask for one for your coffee, do you? You are aware they are cleaned together, under the same cleaning procedures, right? If you must have a straw perhaps ask for a paper straw, fifties style, maybe management will get the message and switch to paper. After all, they both suck.
Sure some drinks, like portable iced coffees, iced teas and soda require some help, just don’t throw it all “over the fantail”, one piece at a time. Walk to a receptacle and consider it cardio.
Aluminum cans can be recycled. But in America, in every three month period, enough aluminum cans are thrown away that can rebuild the entire American commercial air fleet: https://tinyurl.com/y8ks2nnr
A thought: An airline, built of recycled cans, with old airplanes recycled back to cans.
Our youngsters seem to be leading us on this, and many other issues as well. It seems as if our roles are being reversed. They look at what we’ve done to our planet, our home, over our lifetime, and they say…”When will you be responsible? I’m always picking up after you!”
Earth Day is every day