Scraps of plastic fill ponds of Palmaria Palmata. Rockpools everywhere are filled with bladderwrack and bottle tops.
Hermit crabs scuttle around crisp packets and Coca-Cola cans. Sea lettuce habitats are invaded by tiny toy soldiers. They’ve escaped from their imprisonment in landfills. On the front line, they use their tiny bazookas to shoot all marine life around them. Screw tops take cover from grenades within the Irish Moss. Shotgun shells lay still on Coralline rocks. An army of trash has landed on our shores, declaring war against industry and consumerism.
Ghost gear is carelessly lost at sea, ready to entrap marine life. Fisherman’s rope trails down from harbours onto sandy beaches. Like hair fibres, they form tangled nests on the shoreline, unfit to hold any kind of hatchling. Lighters are found wedged between crags on the pebbly ancient coastline. Trash is found bundled beneath driftwood and washed up seaweeds in the tide wrack. Out of sight and out of mind. Raw, plastic nodules, also known as mermaid’s tears are covered in a desert of sand. Clear, white and orange, they’re disguised as food, ingested by fish, and transferred to dinner tables.
A squadron of beach cleaners are all armed with recycling bags and gloves. Amongst the debris, they pick up all the usual suspects; plastic bags, cotton buds, bottles, and cigarette butts. But unidentified floating objects are our real enemy. These unknown, misshapen stoppers and bungs live amongst egg cases and shells, mysteriously unaccounted for. They’re often leaked from nuclear power stations and manufacturing companies. They come in all shapes and sizes, without warning or labels. They’re poured into the sea by careless companies, without care or consideration of the countless live they’re impacting.
Litter picker in one hand, bucket in another, I come across a blue fisherman’s trough. Inside goose barnacles, in double figures, have settled around its brim and on the walls of its stomach. Filled with salty rainwater, these crustaceans have adopted this washed up flotsam as their residence. But this is not their home.
It’s created by humans, packed by humans, delivered by humans, opened by humans, used by humans, and disposed of by humans. It’s deposited into waterways, rivers and oceans, out of sight and out of mind. Eventually, it makes its way back to us, depositing itself on our coastlines, to remind us that we are the ones guilty of polluting our planet. Human-created waste continues to accumulate in oceanic gyres; in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it exceeds plankton numbers by a factor of six, negatively effecting the world’s food chain.
Ghost gear will haunt us every day until we take responsibility for our actions as a plastic obsessed society, and work toward removing marine litter from the natural environment.
We are a plastic obsessed society who will soon drown in our own waste.
Author: Laura Truelove
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own