Featured Letter: The beachcomber report
• Monday, September 15, 2008 10:19 AM EDT
To: the Editor—
I would like to report that my shoreline cleanup of Block Island over the past 15 months was completed on September 4, 2008. This cleanup of about 29 miles of coast — including Great Salt Pond, Harbor Pond and Trim’s Pond — took about 350 hours and filled about 450 large trash bags or 30 full Ford E-150 cargo vans.
In case some are interested as to what I collected, here is an approximate accounting of the 12,500 pounds:
• 57 tires, about 1,400 pounds recycled
• 8,500 plastic bottles, about 700 pounds recycled
• 700 aluminum cans, about 300 pounds recycled
• 2,000 glass bottles, about 800 pounds recycled
• 1,000 pounds of steel cans, lobster traps, boat parts, recycled
• 1,200 pounds of boat parts — aluminum, copper, stainless steel —
• 2 boats
• 2,200 pounds of Styrofoam (five truckloads)
• 4,800 pounds of miscellaneous broken plastic; barrels, bait bins, small appliances, plastic bags, fishing gear, rope, nets, clothing and fish line
• 250 sandals, shoes, boots and sneakers, 75 tennis balls (given to dogs), • 250 sand toys (given away), 250 lighters
• 1 inflatable boat
• 1 moped (thrown off bluffs), 100 pounds, recycled
• 50 hats and visors
• Several thousand balloons, bottle caps, straws, tampon applicators and shotgun shells
The worst accumulations were from:
• Dorie’s Cove North (20 to 30 bags)
• Southwest Point (About 40 bags and many large, loose items, about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds)
• South of Settlers Rock (25 bags)
• Southeast Point (25 bags of Styrofoam and boat parts from shipwreck weighing about 1,500 pounds)
I believe almost all of this debris was from boaters and commercial fishermen. Only a small amount was from beachgoers. I realize some of this debris was from shipwrecks and storms that destroyed a lot of fishing gear.
My hope is that the mariners would try to keep their trash onboard until they reach port. If they can make room for food and supplies when leaving, they should have room for things when they are used up.
I have recently read that the problem of ocean dumping and debris has become a global problem and concern. Clean-up crews in remote parts of Alaska collect tons of debris per mile. In Antarctica, it is estimated, there is one piece of plastic per five meters. Dead penguins have been found full of balloons, lighters, bottle caps and cigarette butts.
In June I spent 10 days in Greenland. I did shoreline cleanups in the various cities I stayed and collected one or two large trash bags of debris from only 100 to 200 meters of harbor shorelines. This was alarming since Greenland is three times the size of Texas with only 57,000 people. This debris was mostly from the fishing industry.
I sincerely hope in the future that we will no longer treat our oceans as a sewer or dumping area. Many large ocean creatures are seriously affected by marine debris. These animals include turtles, seals, whales and some fish. Education is the key. Spread the word and save our oceans.
David E. Roosa
P.S. I did not retrieve 200 lobster traps. Perhaps this winter. This is very labor intensive. Let’s loosen the reins a little.
Let me emphasize that he received almost NOTHING for this. He was telling me about how some people have been saying that they assumed he was doing this to get money for the recyclables, but that's just rediculous. He worked out how much he was making in recycling compared to the amount of hours he's done this annd it turned out to be less than one dollar per hour. Would YOU haul hundreds of bags of trash in the middle of the summer for $1/hour? Probably not. I'm sure that if he wasn't getting anything at all he would still be doing it. He is doing this strictly for Mother Nature and for Block Island, and as a message to boaters everywhere to KEEP YOUR TRASH ONBOARD. The ocean may SEEM vast and it may be hard to imagine that you're making an effect, but you do.
From my own personal experience, I went on a trip to the Florida Keys to learn about this kind of thing. I went to a turtle hospital where they rehabilitate turtles who have swallowed things that are shown overboard. I'm very confident that if any boater who throws their trash overboard went to this place, they'd never do it again. They had actual articles that they'd removed from the stomaches of turtles, and to be blunt, it made me sort of ashamed of us. Keeping on your trash is onboard SO easy, and it saves millions of lives.
Please spread the word, feel free to send this article to anyone you know to spread awareness. here's a link to the article: