“We’re closing in on two tons, and most of it in pieces less than an inch in diameter,” says Scott Rosen, chair of the Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation. Rosen has been leading Surfrider cleanup efforts.
When we think of plastic in the ocean, we normally think of plastic bottles breaking down little by little into smaller and smaller pieces. However, ocean plastic also comes from: chewing gum (includes polyethylene in the “gum base”), cigarette butts (the No. 1 plastic pollutant), clothing (fleece, polyester, acrylic, and nylon, fibers from which wash out in our washing machines), washing-machine parts (about 35 percent plastic), auto parts (close to 50 percent plastic), disposable coffee cups and aluminum cans (lined with plastic.), glass jars (in the lids), “biodegradable” packaging (most of which isn’t, in a landfill, due to lack of oxygen),, and so forth, and so forth. Almost all of this stuff, even if it resides temporarily in a landfill, eventually winds up in our ocean.
But for the moment let’s just think about plastic bottles: Two tons of plastic is the equivalent of 95,493 unrecycled 16-ounce PET (Type 1 plastic) bottles.
Ninety-five thousand plastic bottles were not dumped into the ocean by careless visitors to Otter Rock in a year, or even in several years. It was found there this year, however, due to three factors:
- First, plastic travels with the tides and along with tsunamis. The plastic found at Otter Rock could have originated almost anywhere in the world.
- Second, plastic never goes away; it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic. The plastic found at Otter Rock could have been there for years.
- Third, a local gyre off the Otter Rock coast captures plastic, where it swirls round and round and then is washed ashore each year, twice a year, by King Tides.
“Some of the plastic we removed could have been in the ocean ever since Coke started putting its product in plastic bottles in 1978,” says Rosen. Rosen and his Beach Champions will continue cleanup efforts at Otter Rock through the end of June.
Hey, want to come and help out? Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join the Beach Champions or if you have questions.