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Clear Plastics are Clearly a Problem

Written by Kelsey Kuykendall


Posted on July 27 2023

“To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people’s trash.” – Bill Nye

Greetings Sea Fans! Welcome to the July installment of a Year of Trash! I must say that seven months in, I am still so hopeful for Front Beach and its surrounding area. Each month when I go back, although there is always trash and cigarette butts, it seems like the area is in better shape than before. We all know that there will always be some level of trash, but that the level hasn’t increased and seems to have lowered over the year should be considered a big step in the right direction!

I think there are many factors contributing to this, but a consistent effort from local organizations is definitely the backbone of the success story. If you are local to the Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, MS, area, you should look up the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup program. In addition to monthly cleanups, they host larger clean-up events that cover many beaches including Front Beach. When Chris and I were in graduate school, volunteering with the MS Coastal Cleanup every October was something that we looked forward to doing with our graduate student friends. We would all come back and compare who collected the strangest items. This year their annual clean up event is on 10/21, I encourage you to go if you can!

My July clean up took place on a sunny but unseasonably mild evening. There was a light breeze and it was only around 80 degrees, which I assure you doesn’t happen often during summers on the Mississippi coast! After arriving, I was happily surprised to find very little trash particularly since the Fourth of July had occurred not so long before and the beaches are the only place fireworks are allowed. I did find more beads that surfaced from Mardi Gras past, and snack wrappers and other rubbish that was likely tossed from the trash can by a raccoon looking for its dinner. I spent more time along the roadside where highway 90 comes into Ocean Springs. One thing I did find in a decent amount was clear cellophane wrappers. These wrappers are hard to see and likely went out of sight quickly during a night of fireworks and fun then blew inland. When in water clear wrappers look very similar to jellyfish, a major food source for sea turtles. Check out the cover photo for this post where I put a snack wrapper and a clear fireworks wrapper in water for reference. Not only do plastic films and wrappers look like food, but research has also shown that “ocean-soaked” plastic that has been in the ocean long enough for algae and other micro-organisms to colonize even smells like food to foraging sea turtles. It is estimated that 52% of all sea turtles have ingested plastic at some point in their life.

So what can you do to help protect the sea turtles? The best thing that you can do is remove the opportunity for plastic to find its way into the environment. Reduce the use of single use plastics, recycle plastics when you can, and remove any litter from your habitat when you can. If you are still here, thank you for reading, catch you next month Sea Fans!



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