Photo: Plastic in Paradise

(Credit: Claire_Sambrook via Flickr)

As a little girl, I used to read books about the Bobsey twins, Bert and Nan and Freddie and Flossie. I loved it that they went to the sea shore for their holidays and longed to one day smell the salty air and curl my toes in the sand. I lived in Quebec and we didn't own a car. When I grew up, I was drawn to the sea. For the last thirty years, I have lived and worked by the sea. It is everything I imagined and more and still fills me with awe and wonder.

A favorite holiday is to head to the wilds of northwestern Vancouver Island. We load up the camping gear and drive for 6 hours to the head of the trail. After a wonderful hike through an old growth forest and along a creek, we emerge to a panoramic view of the Pacific in all its glory. Next stop, Japan.

We love to spend hours exploring along the coast with no particular destination, beachcombing as we go and searching unsuccessfully for glass Japanese fishing floats. The beach we camp on is wonderfully isolated and we very seldom meet other people, though our camp has enjoyed the visits of wolves and bears. At night, we snuggle by the campfire and gaze up in wonder at star studded skies. Later, comfy in our sleeping bags, we are lulled to sleep by the reassuring roar of the Pacific. Food tastes better, senses are clear and life is simple and good.

For years, I have spent many hours of the holiday picking up garbage, mostly plastic, off the beach, and moving it to higher ground so it won't end up back in the ocean. I have built many large piles of plastic including fish floats, thongs, nets, rope, fishing lures, and literally thousands of plastic bottles. This beach is so isolated, yet there is an alarming amount of plastic on the beach. I am almost afraid to go back this year, for I know the tsunami debris will surely be washing up soon. What I find alarming is that when I started picking up plastic, it was mostly intact water bottles. Now,over time, the bottles have broken down into little pieces, which makes it ever harder to clean up. But I know those little pieces of plastic kill fish, sea birds and turtles.
"Why bother? my husband asks. "You could do so much more if you wrote about it, championed for change, and encouraged others to do the same, and to stop consuming and throwing away plastic".

I know he is right, but I can't help wanting to try. One day, after hours of cleaning up, I was sore and weary, but decided to take a stroll down the beach to just appreciate the wild splendor of the place. Something shiny caught my eye, and I bent down to investigate. It was a beautiful little blue glass fishing float. The ocean's thank you card.

Message to Canadians: The ocean is full of plastic, and it is killing sea birds, fish and turtles. Use a refillable water bottle and think about the purchases you make. You can make a difference.
Author photo

By Lynne Wheeler

Fanny Bay, BC

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1 Comment

Sep 08, 2012
3:44 AM

I always pick up plastic on beaches, but I know there are huge gyres of plastic in the middle of the ocean. It seems so little among all that debris. But we have to do what we can.

What I have done: For years now, ever since I became aware of the problem, I have not bought a drink in a plastic bottle. if there is no glass, I go without, or better yet bring a thermos or "drinking jar". Most people don't know that an ordinary mason jar, large or small, is leak-proof if the lid is screwed on properly. They are cheap, easy to pack into insulated bags or a back-pack or bag with those flat bottoms, and also good for leftover lunches that might need re-heating — just remove the lid. You can even put leftover compost in them to dispose of later. And they are dishwasher safe and pretty much infinitely reusable.

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