I am mad. I am mad about the trash I found on the beach today. It was disturbing and disgusting.
Fair warning! If you don’t want to be disturbed and disgusted, please don’t read any further.
I have been upset by some of the litter I have found in the past, but as I have written before, I try to be philosophical. I concentrate on all the good work people are doing in the world. I haven’t posted the photos of some of the ugly things I have found because I haven’t wanted to offend anyone. Besides some of you probably already think that my habit of taking photos of trash for #Litterati is weird.
It is time for me to get over it.
When I walk at the beach, I usually see at least one plastic tampon applicator wrapped in kelp or half-buried in the sand. I didn’t know they came in such a variety of colors. I have found them in shades of cream, green, pink, purple, and blue. Every time I see one, I wonder how it happened to wash up on the beach. I imagine the North Pacific Gyre, one of the enormous patches of garbage swirling in the ocean. Did these stray tampons break free of the gyre and float ashore in Carlsbad?
Finding a tampon on the beach a few feet from where children are building a sandcastle is cause for concern. What I found today was even more alarming.
One of my first finds was a blue medical glove lying in the wet sand between two surfboards. I don’t know if it washed up after the surfers arrived or if they just didn’t notice it when they put their boards down. Either way, I wasn’t surprised to see the glove. I have found them many times in the past.
I mumbled, “Yuck,” and looked around to see if anyone was watching as I picked it up using my inside-out bag-into-bag method.
As I continued down the beach, I found a soda can and some candy wrappers before encountering my next medical find: a surgical mask. The glove followed by a mask made me pause. I look for patterns in the litter that washes up; a scary one appeared to be emerging.
On I went and before long, I stumbled upon a syringe wrapper. I was shocked and was soon sickened when I saw a sanitary pad. An Ecolab antibacterial soap container didn’t make me feel any better.
Then I noticed something that I thought was a white towel. As I approached, I could see elastic bands that helped me identify it as a mattress pad. Even more surprising, a medical glove and a small plastic cup like those used to administer medications were entangled in its fabric.
I did not pick that pile up, and I felt guilty about it. I made excuses. My bags were already filled with litter. I didn’t want to touch it with my bare hands, and I didn’t have anything to use to safely dispose of it. I took a quick picture and walked away. I passed some teenage girls who were tanning nearby, and I didn’t even warn them.
As I walked on, I found a purple tampon applicator in the kelp, and even further along, I noticed a mint green one hugging the base of the cliff as young people played Frisbee nearby.
An open “alcohol prep” package was also there on the beach. A mother sat on a rock and watched as her daughter splashed in the surf a few feet away.
I imagined more of the waste swirling in the waves around the swimmers. I felt like yelling “shark” so everyone would run out of the water and escape the swell unharmed—but I wouldn’t have dared.
Instead, this blog post is my warning.
When I got home, I called I Love a Clean San Diego to report what I had found, and the person I spoke to referred me to the ranger station at the South Carlsbad State Beach. The ranger told me that they would let the lifeguards know. I asked them to have the lifeguards locate and dispose of the mattress pad that I had left behind. I then went online and filed a report with the Environmental Protection Agency. I am not sure if there is anyone else I should call or anything more I can do other than inform and educate anyone who will listen.
If you are disturbed and disgusted, here are some links where you can learn more about marine debris:
Act now with the National Resources Defense Council.
Visit the EPA to Learn What You Can Do.
Find ideas for educating others, using the resources provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They offer free K-12 curriculum as well as posters and other teaching materials.
Participate in I Love a Clean San Diego or other local events.
Join the Litterati.
Be inspired by Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, my sister and her husband. Visit their Beach Plastic blog and watch One Plastic Beach, a short documentary about their work.
Great post, Janis! You are truly an activist…in your words and your actions. Definitely disturbing thematic trash trends for you today. Makes me wonder where the trash comes from…like the flowers yesterday.
Thanks, Kim. Our walk and talk the other day helped me find the courage to actually post it.
So glad I came upon your writing. I run around feeling worried about garbage and the state of the planet so it’s nice to meet fellow travellers. I pick up garbage mostly in my neighbourhood in Toronto, Canada. Keep up the good work! The sea animals and beach don’t really speak our language, but I know they are grateful and love what you do!
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