Monday, March 7, 2011

Brenneckes Pacific Garbage

Before we left Kauai Mum and I took the kids for a morning swim at Brenneckes Beach.   The road to the beach was covered with puddles of muddy red water and Indian Mynahs, chickens and golden plovers were dotted across the oceanfront lawns, bright from recent rain.

Down on the beach Wren played "bad crab" with the remnants of yesterday's sandcastles - the bad crab attacks the castles with tunnels, sledgehammer and other driftwood - while Mum and Frost had the first swim and boogie board.  While they played and swam I walked up and down the short stretch of sand collecting bits of rubbish and plastic left at or above the tide line.  

Plastics from the beach Saturday morning.

We were only at the beach a short while and I collected a full plastic bag full of plastics.   The rubbish on the beach included a couple of beer cans, a single flip-flop in the rocks, four clear plastic bags, some sunblock and a pair of broken sunglasses but most of it was particles of plastic.  I have never seen so many small plastic aggregates on a beach before.  The plastic was almost 50/50 white and blue.  Most of the pieces were tiny, smaller than a quarter and of irregular shape - the product of weeks, months or years of disaggregation at sea.  Many pieces appeared melted down - as if a plastic container had melted into a lump of toothpaste - but words or labeling was sometimes visible in part.  The harder you looked, the more tiny pieces of plastic you noticed.

[Perhaps the heat of the sun causes this or recycled plastic lumps fall from a ship into the ocean?  I cannot explain it and, since I am writing this on the trans-Pacific flight home to Seattle, I can't look it up.]

When you sit down on this beach, and the others I saw on the South Side of the island, the sand is littered with tiny plastic particles (again, mostly bright blue and white).   On a beach without street access, we walked in one windy afternoon and looked out across a brilliant blue cove to a distant peak falling down black cliffs breaking rolling waves.  On that beach people had piled the plastics up near the dunes, where the beach shrubs began to offer cover.  The pile included bags of tiny plastic particles, lengths of green nylon rope, two large plastic drums (corroded shut but containing liquid) that looked as though they may hold fuel or water for a small craft as well as plastic pallets, tubs, sections of plastic pipe and masses of larger plastic shards, weathered from their manufactured gloss into an almost organic feel.
This picture makes it look like the pieces are large.  The smaller
bits are at the bottom of the bag.

More than once I big a plastic aggregate or rough plastic to confirm it was not a piece of coral, rock or other natural object.

I weighed the bag when I returned to the house and it was 2.5 lbs of plastic from one small (25 yard) stretch of beach in less than 30 minutes.  

I am considering banning all plastic in our home.  What would that mean?  Can we live post-plastic?   Have you seen this kind of plastic waste on your beaches?

The Great Pacific Garbage Dump


Dumpster Dude said...

People are not understanding the long term harmful impact of plastics

Shannon said...

You're right. When you buy everything with plastic wrapped around it, made of plastic and disposed of in plastic it seems normal. I hope we can find a way to show an alternative!

Anonymous said...

and what was also strange was that at all the Kauai beaches and Waikiki beaches that we went to, there were NO shells? why? not even broken bivalves of little collecting value. MUM