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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 (254 Articles)
I'm the one behind two totally unrelated blogs; one on 15 years of writing a weekly letter to my kids (plus other recipients), the other on my localized environmental responsibility. I'm a writer by trade and both endeavors are accepted practice for me. As for the letters, my adult children Ellen and Reid may have seen letters as corny at one point, but it's accepted practice for them, too, to find something in their mailbox other than bills and junk mail. Email and texting don't do a lot for me for a lot of different reasons. Snail mail has its place in the communicative world so as long as they keep selling stamps, I'm buying. As for 'Pick Up Your Path' and the environment, I advocate what citizens can do themselves to take a direct hand in their neighborhood environment. But Pick Up Your Path is also a general environmental blog. It may be largely about litter and trash, but both of those are just one element of the total environmental picture.

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