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I live at the Jersey Shore in New Jersey, home of The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen.
It’s not quite like it is on TV, not everyone is hyper-focused on “gym, tan, and laundry” but during the summer we have quite a few guests. People behave differently when they are on vacation. They use disposable everything while they are taking a break from their regularly scheduled lives. Our sanitation worker told me that he didn’t think we lived here year-round because we didn’t create enough garbage.
Twice a year, I volunteer with Clean Ocean Action, a non-profit dedicated to restore, improve, and protect the water quality of the ocean off the New York and New Jersey coastlines. We pick up and catalog all the trash collected, and use the data for improving conditions. So much plastic is collected, so many straws and water bottles.
I remember when I was a kid and my mom would take us to the park, she would bring a little plastic bag with her and pick up random garbage while she was low-key supervising us. The occasional comment was met with the reply, “My kids play here too.” I used to tell her that my beach cleanup participation was a result of this encouragement as a child.
On a larger scale, all this garbage in general and plastic, in particular, ends up somewhere. This inspiring video shows a man cleaning his childhood beach. Okay, it’s part inspiring and part infuriating. If you think one person can’t make a difference, each piece of garbage here represents one person’s decision to not use a trash can or recycling bin. The cumulative effect of many small choices littered this Indian shoreline.
This exciting video shows the Great Pacific Garbage Patch being cleaned up by mechanical means. There is a parachute-like system that was designed for passive collection of the garbage drawn into these ocean currents. By the time these plastics arrive in the patch, they are no longer intact, recognizable items, and sea creatures often confuse them for food. I was stunned that there was a Texas-sized garbage patch with a name, floating around in the ocean.
Sir David Attenborough made a set of documentaries called Blue Planet that inspired many people to do things like skipping single-use plastics, clean up the places where they are, and pressure businesses and politicians to make lasting operational changes. He is one person using his influence to encourage thousands of people to change their behavior. The cumulative effect of these small choices will make a big difference.