Trash on the beach is an interesting subject, a sociological deep dive into the manic minds of the many and the good of a few. The next time you want to judge someone’s character, don’t observe how they treat the wait staff at a restaurant (or do, because that’s also an accurate depiction of their humanity); watch how they react when walking on the beach at sunset and a piece of disgusting trash stands between your unadorned toes and the very next step.
It’s true to say most don’t want to dirty their hands with the litter from another but this isn’t a beach existing in a faraway ether; this is Newport Beach, our home, and if it gets marred by a half-sipped water bottle or dappled with the aluminum wounds of potato chip bags, our feet should want to stop in the wake of this disaster — our legs should demand it — and throw the garbage away.
(OK, there are notably a few exceptions to this rule, like touching a blood-stained needle — sadly, I’ve come across a few — or picking up a slime-encrusted beer can that’s seen better days.)
There’s a really cool initiative gaining momentum across the digital and real world called Take 3, which was started by a charitable organization with a mission to reduce global plastic pollution. (Check the hashtag #Take3ForTheSea and you’ll find inspiring visual representation of this awesome idea at play.) Essentially, Take 3 encourages participants to pick up three pieces of trash every time they step foot on the beach.
It’s a simple concept and a brilliant example of the compound impact created by small acts of awareness. Think about it: If every single one of us picked up three, little pieces of trash every time we walked the beach, our shores would be a whole lot cleaner than they are today. (At present, it’s almost impossible to walk from one lifeguard tower to the next without encountering at least one piece of litter.) Heck, you can even Instagram the act if it’ll motivate you to clean.
Especially as the summer season heavily descends, a three-piece pick-up could alleviate the ensuing mess created every June through September as hundreds of thousands visit our beach, some caring to leave it clean, others exhibiting a surprising amount of mindlessness.
And remember, a litter-free beach isn’t just a move toward a more natural, oceanic aesthetic; it’s also helping us, the humans who inhabit these shores, stay healthy. According to research from Carleton College, about 20% of ocean trash comes from ships and 80% from litter blown into the sea, picked up by the tides or intentionally dumped into our waters. The plastics don’t biodegrade, so tiny pieces are consumed by fish, sea mammals and birds, killing more than 100,000 in total each year.
More damning still, chemicals from the plastics are released into the water and the atmosphere, contaminating the fish we eat and thus, directly entering our food chain.
“I’d like my black cod encrusted with shopping bag remnants and topped in water bottle shavings, please.”
One of the great pleasures derived from life lived in this town comes by way of the beach. Abundant peace can be unearthed in waves of crystal blue, in endlessly walkable shores and in toes curled against mid-morning sunshine. But paradise life comes attached with the price tag of social responsibility and the sooner we take ownership of this problem, (even if it’s one we didn’t personally create), the sooner we can give back to the ocean that gives so much to us.
Take three, take five, take one … however you contribute to this trashy epidemic, what matters most is that you do.