Beach Trash: A Summer Tradition
Local papers from every coastal town in the United States often feature stories about the vast amounts of trash left along their shorelines after a raucous July Fourth weekend. This year, our own Daytona Beach News Journal reported that beach visitors left behind more than 26 tons of trash this year. But another number that really stands out is 10-12 tons: the amount of trash left behind on Volusia County beaches on an average summer weekend. That means every weekend this summer, beachgoers will leave 10-12 tons of trash on the beaches. Thankfully, beach clean-up crews do an excellent job of cleaning up most of the debris. But no cleaning crew can prevent every piece of trash from being washed into the ocean or blowing into the dunes. The beaches may look pristine by Monday morning, but the debris you can’t see in the water and in the dunes presents a real danger to local wildlife. Diving birds are unable to see clear plastic shopping and sandwich bags floating on the ocean surface, which can result in severe injury or death to the birds when they collide with or become entangled in the plastic. Small pieces of leftover Styrofoam containers enter the digestive systems of fish, turtles and birds, which sometimes proves fatal, and plastic rings used to connect six-packs of soda can get caught around necks, bills, feet, wings and flippers. Sharp pieces of plastic from broken beach chairs, tents, and sand toys can also cause injury to unsuspecting beachgoers when they lay or step on this debris.
So what can be done? Obviously, picking up any trash brought to the beach is a great first step. But lighter items such as plastic bags can easily blow away in a typical afternoon breeze. Beachgoers can prevent this by weighting down any items of this type, or making sure they are secured within larger bags. Plastic rings should be removed from beverages before they are placed in coolers and brought to the beach. Beach visitors can also make a difference by simply picking up noticeable debris when they leave, even if the trash does not belong to them. Large beach cleanup events and local ordinances can only do so much. A little extra effort on the part of every individual beachgoer can make a much larger impact.
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