Penn Cove. For many, these words are associated with beautiful sunrises, herons majestically observing the waters for their catch, clam digging, duck and even whale watching.
A closer look around the beaches of Penn Cove reveal a sobering impression — garbage and especially plastics everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, lids from to-go coffee, straws, take-out dishes, pieces of plastic sheets, plastic disks, pieces of rope and countless pebbles of broken down Styrofoam, and more unidentifiable pieces of former, maybe useful, items.
It’s all very sad.
My husband and I have a hard time ignoring this sight.
We regularly pick up whatever we see wherever we are.
Any road, any beach, any public place offers the same picture.
We are amazed and frustrated at the same time about the amount of trash that can be collected in a relatively short time. Some days ago at a Penn Cove beach we filled up five big bags in about 90 minutes.
Unfortunately, Penn Cove is not the only location that has a problem.
In the fall of 2019 in the two neighboring ponds by Driftwood Park, we found thousands of Styrofoam pebbles and bigger pieces of Styrofoam.
These ponds are across from Crockett Lake, an amazing birding area.
On our dog-walking routes, we are always armed with a bag in case we find trash along the road.
Our runs and bike rides often result in us going back and collecting where we saw a lot of litter.
Thankfully there are many other responsible islanders that also pick up what shouldn’t be on the road.
There are a few issues related to careless behavior:
• Drinking while driving. Besides the non-alcoholic plastic bottles flying out of cars, we regularly find beer cans, wine bottles and even hard liquor bottles! Do these drivers feel any sense of responsibility toward other people on the road?
• Littering purposefully in a landscape that should be cherished and kept beautiful.
• The amount of garbage, especially plastics, is absolutely devastating for any marine life. Reports of dead whales, birds, sea turtles etc. that have their stomachs filled with plastics should not have been missed by anyone. Why did they have to die? I leave this answer up to the reader.
Plastics deteriorate over time, especially due to UVB light from the sun. It becomes harder and harder to even pick up plastic litter since it seems to fall into a thousand pieces on contact.
Microplastics could be the result of this process. Shellfish worldwide were found to contain microplastics. KOMO News featured a report about microplastics in shellfish in Oregon on Nov. 19 of last year. The problem occurs worldwide. We as consumers contaminate what we eat.
I think we are at a point where everyone has to ask him/herself some serious questions:
• Do I really need to take this plastic bag? Can I bring my own shopping bags? Could I use reusable straws as well as a reusable cup? Could I clean up better after I stayed in an outdoor area? Could I bend over at least once a day and pick up trash that I see?
• Could I collect my emptied containers in the car and dispose of them properly at my destination?
Over the years, single-use plastic has grown into a huge problem.
It represents a level of convenience that comes at a very high price if consumers do not dispose of it correctly.
We all should be very clear about the consequences and ask ourselves, “Is it really worth it?”
Small changes in our habits can make a big difference.
More importantly, they can preserve the beauty nature has to offer for generations to come. We need nature. That is a fact.
Please, let’s make an effort to keep our surroundings clean and all living things, including us, healthy!