The Plastic Littering Our Shores

April 22, 2022



Photographer: Geoff Dennis

Summary Authors: Geoff Dennis, Lavinia Gadsden; Jim Foster

The photo at top shows what I collected along shore here in East Island, Rhode Island, on November 23, 2021. Sadly, I come across this stuff all too often. Of course, it’s not just the beaches in Rhode Island that are being contaminated by plastics, trash, flotsam and other debris; it’s happening pretty much everywhere. The oceans can deal with a lot but have found their match with plastic. It doesn’t degrade on the scale of human lifetimes.

Included in my “catch” on November 23, are 27 mylar balloons. They came in this summer, blew to higher ground on the island and laid in wait until the vegetation died off, which revealed their hiding places. In addition, I found 25 single use, plastic bottles that had come ashore since September 6. The running tally on these two most numerous items collected, which began in 2015, now stands at 489 bottles/cans (99.9% plastic bottles) and 558 mylar balloons. Note that the four lobster pots washed in on a nor’easter earlier in November.

Today marks the 52nd Earth Day. Few would argue that our lives would be better without plastic, but our ocean’s health, and indeed our planet’s health, suffers as this plastic waste increasingly litters our shores.

On occasion, my debris removal runs are happily interrupted by unexpected sightings that take my breath away, such as the snowy owl (bottom photo) -- one of three I spotted in a time span of an hour or so. These sporadic wintertime visitors were part of an irruption in the autumn of 2021.

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