First time today doing an organized beach clean up. I think beach cleanups are inefficient. We should not be creating these types of packaging materials in the first place. We should not be relying on private citizens, and especially not volunteering teenagers, to clean up the poor packaging choices of manufacturers.
Plastic packaging is not ‘cheap’. It may be that manufacturers currently do not pay the full cost of it, but society has to pay. We pay the municipal sanitation workers and the state park rangers who spend their time cleaning up this stuff with actual money. On top of that I used almost 1/8 a tank of gas to get to the beach and back. It’s not ideal to fill up (plastic) trash bags with the trash collected at the state park and use state park and municipal services ($) to haul it to a landfill either. Sending stuff to a landfill and thinking that’s the end of it is not responsible. Disposal is hardly ‘free’, either in real money or in transportation emissions. And then of course there is the unimaginable cost of the destruction of our oceans.
All of this I already knew before we showed up. What I was not prepared for was the plastic fragments. Most is already too small for well-meaning teenagers to notice and pick up. I am sure there are particles mixed into the sand already too small for anyone to see or collect. We are never going to be able to get all of this out of the ocean. Not even to make a nice 4Ocean bracelet.
Manufacturers should be responsible for making better packaging choices and for collecting and disposing of all their packaging in a biobenign way. There are already some packaging manufacturers like BioPak in Australia working on this.
“Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean — which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. Estimates suggest that plastic packaging represents the major share of this leakage. The best research currently available estimates that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today. In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”
Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The New Plastics Economy 2016