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Awash in plastic: An oceanic debris disaster …

You wanna know why I pick up someone else’s shit almost every day?
Here’s why: A hell of a lot – 260,000 tons worth – of plastic fouls our oceans, enough so that 44% of sea birds and turtles have plastic in their bodies.
Let’s put it in a more grisly, stomach-churning perspective: The 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating or at the bottom of the ocean translate to more than 700 pieces of plastic for every one of the 7.2 billion people on earth.
WTF?
That’s why I pick up every last damned Pepsi or Coca Cola bottle cap, crunched car fender, drinking straw, Burger King and McDonalds cup, spent and discarded cigarette lighters, mini-liquor bottles, tooth flossing thingies and smashed polystyrene to-go boxes. Every last stinking piece. Mankind’s consumerism and sheer stupidity is ruining what we’ve been given and causing ruination to species where they live.
The alarm bells were sounded this week in a study of 1,700 oceanic locations during 24 separate expeditions to survey trash bobbing atop and below the ocean surface. (Read about the ecological scourge at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/12/11/3602115/700-pieces-of-plastic-per-person/.) The report is even more damning than I portray it.
It's no longer a stretch for me to envision this junk in the Atlantic Ocean. This litter may try to escape containment, but not on my watch.

It’s no longer a stretch for me to envision this junk in the Atlantic Ocean. This litter may try to escape containment, but not on my watch.

I see the dilemma in miniature – floating bottles and discarded poly containers, etc. – when I kayak for redfish and speckled trout in the marshes and tidal flats of the Intracoastal waterways in both North and South Carolina. I wonder if what I catch has eaten any of these pollutants.

So it’s no longer a stretch for me to envision a 7-Eleven cup or its ilk floating down McMullen Creek in Charlotte to McAlpine Creek to Sugar Creek in South Carolina to the Catawba River which empties into Wateree Lake which becomes the Wateree River. The Wateree dumps into the Congaree River which slows at Lakes Marion and Moultrie. Then it’s on to the Cooper River and the open Atlantic. How long that cup’s journey takes is anyone’s guess.

But that’s the moral of the story: Refuse-debris-junk-crap enters the chain at some point and gravity does the rest. That 7-Eleven cup will eventually make it.
I’m not piling on the U.S. It’s a global issue. But when the carcasses of nearly half of sea birds and turtles contain chunks of plastic and polystyrene, well, it’s time to get pissed and do something about it.
Will you join me? We can stoop to conquer, if you know what I mean.
About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

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