Monday, April 21, 2014

Washington Coast Cleanup Day: Fighting the Tide of Debris

We're hunched over, scanning the driftwood-littered beach for washed up trash on this soggy April day. Here on the Washington coast, storm fronts off the Pacific slam hard, and we're getting pummeled by the rain and wind. 

But with raingear and boots, many are out here for Washington CoastSavers Coast Cleanup day. After all, a good rain never stopped a true Northwesterner.

"It's like an Easter egg hunt!" jokes Paul, as we see multi-colored bits of plastic shards scattered among the logs and debris up near the tideline. We've gathered plastic bottles,  rusted tin cans, shoes, bits of tires, styrofoam, various other things like a tin of chewing tobacco, and plastic. LOTS of plastic.

I appreciate Paul's humor because finding all this plastic on Second Beach, a relatively pristine wilderness beach in Olympic National Park, is frankly depressing. People, we must cut down on our production and use of plastic!

Too much plastic in our oceans!
Volunteers from all over western Washington have gathered at beaches stretching from the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca down to the southern Pacific coast to pick up trash. The South Sound SurfRiders are our sponsor for beaches near LaPush. They are friendly folks who provide us a hot lunch afterwards.

After checking in the morning and getting big black garbage bags, we head to Second Beach and hike the .75 mile down to the beach through lush forest, past magnificent Sitka spruce and flowering skunk cabbage.

We're hit by the steady, driving rain as we emerge from the forest onto the picturesque beach, where others are already at work picking up trash. 

For the next few hours, our group of six walks up and down the beach filling our bags with trash.  With the bulk of debris being small pieces of broken plastic, often wedged in the sand or natural ocean debris, it's slow and messy going.  

Between the wind and rain, we're coated in sand after a while. But occasionally I stop to take in the beauty of our surroundings. It's a many shades of gray kind of day.

After a morning of getting pelted by the weather, we call it quits and head back.  (Last year it was a nicer day and some stayed out until mid-afternoon.)

I was disappointed to not fill my bag, but the predominant tiny pieces of plastic would have taken a couple days to fill the bag.  We couldn't haul the several big tires we passed embedded in the sand, but a couple strong guys dragged one back up.

Beach litter no more.

My takeaway from this event:  Use less plastic.  Buy less plastic.  That's my personal challenge.  

I hope you, too, consider doing the same and encouraging others to do so also.  We're trashing our oceans with waste.  It's shameful.

When You Go
The Washington CoastSavers has other events throughout the year. Visit their website for details. For Oregon coast beach cleanup events, check out the SOLVE website. 

Were you out there too? Would love to hear about your experience or what sort of trash/debris you've found on our Northwest ocean beaches. Just click on the word Comments below.  Thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 


JoJo said...

I was last in Westport in 2011 and Ruby Beach/Kalaloch in 2010 and I was shocked at the bits of plastic all over the beach. We have trouble w/ larger pieces of plastic on our tide brought in a bumper crop of shotgun shells and tampon applicators. It's very sad.

jill said...

JoJo, some of the trash is likely from the 2011 tsunami from Japan, but wouldn't have been responsible for what you saw on your 2010 trip. Yes,it's sad. Shotgun shells and tampon applicators, sheesh!

Don said...

Enjoyed your blog about the beach clean up. It certainly is a tragedy that there is so much trash on the ocean some of which washes up on our beaches.

Anonymous said...

Off to Oregon this morning. We will be on the beaches and I have already packed a couple of bags for beach clean up.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Jill, this is a wonderful post, thoughtful and filled with powerful images. Thank you for sharing your trip tale. Your photos are terrific. Have you considered a career change? :)

I haven't done a beach plastics cleanup day in a few years. Last time was informally about 2 years ago at Secret Beach in Ballard. I was there with a friend and without even talking about it we just started picking up plastic as we walked. All the pieces of plastic were teeny tiny.


Anonymous said...

Big round of back patting for the cleanup. And thank you for the photo of the skunk cabbage, its a big yellow sign of spring.

For those of you who spend time on or live next to the beach I recommend "The Next Tsunami, Living on a Restless Coast" Bonnie Henderson published by OSU Press.

jill said...

Thanks for the recommendation of the book! The author is giving a reading in Seattle on May 2 at Elliott Bay Books and I hope to be there.

Lainey Piland said...

Way to tough it out in that Washington weather! :) What a great way to make a tangible difference in regard to the problem of plastic pollution, and with that gorgeous pristine scenery all around as a reminder of why we need to change our ways.

I saw that there was a beach cleanup earlier this year but I wasn't able to attend... this definitely inspired me to sign up for the next one!