By Grace Bertrand
I AM sure many of you have visited your local beach before and discovered miscellaneous items that you know don’t belong on the sandy shoreline, such as bottle caps, plastic straws and a more recent development – masks. Where does all this pollution come from? The answer is us.
Every time you leave a plastic wrapper on the sand instead of throwing it out, it breaks down over time and eventually ends up in our oceans. This summer, the Environment America Research & Policy Center, a nonprofit organization, found that about half of the beaches in the U.S. are contaminated with items that are unsafe not just to the little creatures on the shore, but to the ones in the ocean as well.
Two weekends ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a local beach sweep at Belmar Beach in New Jersey, hosted by the eco-friendly club here on campus, Broncs Go Green, in partnership with a nonprofit organization dedicated to cleaning up beaches called Clean Action Ocean. Students were encouraged to come with family and friends and bring gloves, hard-soled shoes and reusable buckets to reduce plastic bag waste.
My friend and I attended the sweep for around an hour and a half, and in that time, we found over 30 pieces of trash from different waste categories, such as plastic, paper and metal. We were given a sheet of paper to keep track of the different items we found and what category they belonged to. Although I was aware of the immense ocean pollution we face as a nation, I did not expect to uncover as much waste in the sands as I did.
Several of the items we found hidden underneath the sand included plastic and metal bottle caps, cigarette holders, small pieces of plastic and disposable face mask. What was even more disappointing than the trash was the interaction we had with a local boy who, even though he stood approximately 10 feet away from a trash can, expected us to throw away the plastic Dunkin’ cup he had in his hand just because he saw we were cleaning.
After being told to throw it out himself, the boy proceeded to drop the cup in the sand, saying, “There, I littered. Will you pick it up now?” Immediately, my friend and I dismissed him and he picked his cup up and walked to the trash can to throw it out himself. The impression this interaction left me with was one of disgust for the indifference people seem to have when it comes to the pollution of our oceans and how they continue to shamelessly pollute beaches.
Our oceans make up the majority of our planet and the pollution left on beaches eventually finds its way into the ocean. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 80% of pollution in the oceans comes from land.
I encourage you to get your gloves and hard-soled shoes on and help clean up your local beaches, or at least clean up after yourself the next time you enjoy a nice day at the beach.