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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Plastic in Paradise

Posted by admin | April 28th, 2010 | Filed under Environmental Change, Outdoor Sport


A week ago on Sunday, the weather was forecast to be sunny and warm, with highs in the 70s. My surfing buddy and I decided it was time to transition from snow boards to surfboards. We left town early to hit the windless morning session at Short Sands. Bingo!! It felt so good to be back in the water again, just as it does on that first powder day in the fall.

We finished our session just as the crowds arrived and resolved to call it a day. As our wetsuits dried on the rocks, we decided to walk to the waterfall at the north end of the beach, while along the way fulfilling our usual garbage pick up ritual. At first glance, we noticed an unusual amount of trash, most particularly plastic. We both agreed we had never seen so much before. Upon closer inspection, we realized what we were seeing. Intermingled in the organic debris at the high water mark were millions of tiny plastic bits. The Gyre!

My elation was quickly replaced with hopelessness. It was impossible to pick up all this plastic on the beach. I took some comfort in knowing that as other beach-goers realized what we were doing, they too joined in the endeavor.
blog-whaleBefore leaving the beach we stopped along the high-point of the coastal highway, just north of Manzanita, in hopes of observing whales. We were rewarded with many sightings of migrating Grey whales. I worried about them, knowing that they were baleen whales and they would most certainly encounter the debris we just found.

Just today there is a news report of garbage found in stomach of dead whale washed up on West Seattle Beach. Not two days prior, a baby Grey Whale washed up on the beach in Oregon, the same day we watched whales from high above the cliffs.

My first surfing day of the season was filled with so many highs and so many lows. I am inspired to act. I’ll be at the beach again this weekend, picking up my favorite beach. This week I will bring extra bags to hand out too.

Whether your passion is on land or at the sea, join me in my quest to help clean up. Carry out more than you bring in. Contact your local chapter of Surfrider Foundation or check out any of the many National Environmental Organizations to find out how you can help.

6 Responses to “Plastic in Paradise”

  • April 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm | libby says

    Susan and I will picking up trash along the Oregon coast this Sunday. We will be leaving from Portland Sunday morning if anybody wants to join. :) If you are not in Portland then maybe you could organize your own trash pick-up day. It doesn’t even have to be on the beach! These days there is plastic waste everywhere you turn. Here is an inspirational video about the ridiculous amount of plastic we have floating around in the world. http://www.surfrider.org/portland/2010/04/good-use-less-plastic.html

  • April 28, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Linda Hughes says

    I can not go on Sunday, but will try to surf Saturday and will bring my own bag to carry something off the beach. I even used a screen to sift the plastic out of some sand last week though it seems like a herculean task. We also need change in public policy. We need people to tell businesses they don’t want plastic. We need to use less plastic, choose less plastic. Vote with your purchases.

  • April 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm | shannon hampton says

    I love that you are acting. I aspire to take action as you do and my aunt who walks about the world everywhere she goes picking up trash no matter where or what occasion. Here’s my question- once you pick it up and deposit it in a garbage can- where does it go from there? How can we keep it from ending up back on the beach? By no means would this stop me, but who handles it next? How did it get in the ocean? Am I being cynical?

  • April 28, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Ddarlyn Nowack says

    Although I may not go to the beach this weekend, I will make a point of devoting a day to beach clean up in May. A VERY inspirational article Susan.

  • April 29, 2010 at 8:18 pm | susan says

    Hi Shannon,
    I had the same thought as you. It could end up right back in the ocean.
    What can we do? I wish I knew. I do know I can educate myself and others, model the right behavior, recycle, and vote. We can each make a difference in our own way, even if it seems not enough. Just imagine if everyone did as your Aunt does?

  • [...] often covered the Pacific Gyre garbage patch on The Thought Kitchen, it’s impact on the Oregon Coast, and other efforts to draw attention to the unfolding ecological disaster. But [...]

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