Last weekend I participated in a beach cleanup with the South Sound chapter of Surfrider, something I try to do every month. It’s a good chance to do a spot survey for types and quantities of debris, and then help get that beached flotsam out of the ecosystem and into a landfill. (The latest survey is up on the Data page.)
Foamed plastic is a big player in the beach contamination business around here. As docks and marinas break apart, the polystyrene floats are released on the current and as each of the large pieces are reliably broken into smaller and smaller fragments by the wind and waves, they eventually come to rest on a beach somewhere. Essentially, they become part of the beach. Too tiny to pick up, yet in numbers impossible to ignore.
Just above the high tide mark at Yowkwala Beach, billions of these plastic foam pellets cover the ground where old dock sections were once stored. Because there is no practical way to clean up the remains, what will happen seems inevitable. The rain is falling and water always finds its way to the sea. These little pieces of puffed plastic will be carried by that flow at some point, maybe washing back into shore here, maybe carried half a world away. It’s impossible to say.
The one thing we know for sure is that it will never really disappear. Forget diamonds… plastic is forever.