Beach finds last week: Plastic toothbrush; plastic baby powder bottle; plastic hagfish (eel) trap; plastic coat hanger; and a sundry of unidentifiable bits and chunks of plastic in a rainbow of colors—none of it left behind by beach-goers but based on its snagged and worn condition, arrived by water.
I imagine a fisherman up early, brushing his teeth, when a fish hits his line. He grabs his rod and reel with both hands, and the toothbrush falls overboard.
I imagine a typhoon off the Philippines in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and a half-dozen, metal containers loaded with baby powder, baby shampoo, baby lotion tumble off a ship.
I imagine a local fisherman, setting eel traps, and the perforated, plastic cone getting loose, floating to shore on the tide.
But the coat hanger? What the heck is a coat hanger doing at sea?
This is about the time of year when I start to look for boluses in the Laysan albatross colony I monitor. Typically, before they fledge, chicks will regurgitate anything their bodies cannot process. Things like squid beaks and bits of coral to which fish eggs may have once attached themselves. And plastic.
We’re talking chicks with webbed feet that have yet to touch the sea. Chicks that are unable to fly and have only ventured about 30 feet from their nest over the past five months of their lives. Chicks fed plastic by dedicated parents that have mistaken the non-biodegradable matter for food. Every year, some chicks starve to death–with bellies full of the invention that launched Tupperware.
The same day I collected the toothbrush, baby powder bottle, coat hanger, and hagfish cone, our first Hawaiian monk seal pup of the season weaned after six weeks of nursing by its mother.
Now is the time we worry about monk seal “weaners.” Without mom, exploring more of the coastline, sampling various things to determine what’s good eating, now is the time they can get in trouble. Get hooked on fishing lines, entangled in fish nets, their muzzles stuck on eel traps. All which has happened before.
Many conservation groups in Hawaii celebrate today as World Oceans Day, a United Nations-recognized event to raise awareness of our planet’s precious oceans–and the need to keep them healthy. A healthy ocean contributes to a healthy planet, helping provide the air we breathe and the food many people eat. According to the Nature Conservancy, fifty-one percent of cancer-fighting drugs are derived from nature, such as coral reefs. So, no matter where you live, even in land-locked Middle America, our very human lives depends on our world’s oceans.
Today, I invite you to join me in celebrating our oceans–by taking the #resolve2refuse plastic pledge.
Plastic does not bio-degrade. Plastic poisons our food chain. Plastic threatens our wildlife. Plastic affects our health.
Disposable plastics are the greatest source of plastic pollution in our world. Yet I’ve found there are plenty of thirst-quenching beverages available in the more environmentally-friendly packaging options of glass and aluminum. So, please, the next time you find yourself thirsty and standing in front of a cooler full of water and soda bottles; energy, juice, and tea drinks; and other single-serving beverages, think about this: Two out of every three plastic bottles housing the liquid that takes you just a few minutes to drink lives in our house–our home, the planet, Earth, our environment–forever. Most single-serve plastic bottles are made with PET–Polyethylene terephthalate. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 31 percent of PET bottles and jars were recycled in 2012.
Here’s a simple idea: Refuse plastic. For our seabirds. For our marine mammals. For me. For you.
As for the plastic coat hanger, I still cannot imagine what it was doing floating around the ocean.