Winds of Change•
Posted on March 09 2023
“A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.” – Catherine the Great
I have experienced some embarrassing moments in public, but there are few things as humbling as trying to control a white bucket in 17 mph wind gusts. I met more local people on this clean up than any in the past, and I can’t help but wonder if it is directly related to the spectacle I am sure I was making of myself. There were moments when my bucket was seriously horizontal and catching wind. But nevertheless, I persisted and was able to collect a total of 4lb of trash in about 45 minutes.
I wondered how my clean up would go this month in the wake of the Mardi Gras season. Would I find yet more beads, or would there still be a copious amount of cigarette butts to be found? I would like to take a moment and say a big THANK YOU to the Ocean Springs Public Works for the amazing job. There were hardly any beads or evidence of the festivities. Since the larger items were mostly gone, I decided to focus again on the smaller things. We all know from last month’s blog that we are consuming, on average, a credit card worth of plastic each week, and that is one of the million reasons why microplastics are bad. This month I found a plethora of broken beads and small plastic pieces that street sweeping machines, and even some pinchers, will not pick up. Yes, I understand that I am one of the few crazy people that spent time picking microplastic out of the sidewalk cracks, and no I am not expecting other to do so! What I am suggesting is finding alternative things to single-use plastics in your everyday life to help ameliorate the issue of microplastics in its earliest stages. An average household can produce as much as 300lbs of plastic trash each year, so how can we all reduce our average?
Some easy swaps that you can make are investing in a good reusable water bottle and taking your own shopping bags to the store. If you left the house in a rush and forgot to grab a bag, paper can be a good alternative to plastic. As of 2022, about 68% of paper is reclaimed and recycled (plus it doesn’t turn into microplastic that you will eventually consume). Each time you refill that bottle or reuse that bag, you are reducing the amount of plastic in use. Aside from bottles and bags, about 40% of plastic produced each year is for packaging. Next time you are headed to that great restaurant with the portion sizes so large you get lunch the next day, throw a reusable container in your bag to spare that to-go container. Some cities even have stores where you can refill things like laundry and soap containers!
Okay, still with me? I promise I am getting back to the fun story about the person getting publicly humiliated by their bucket. After spending some time collecting tiny pieces of plastic, I did a sweep of my usual areas looking for cigarette butts. This is the point where it dawned on me that the wind in my bucket might just be a metaphor for the winds of change. Not only was most of the trash gone, but I also noticed something that sparks hope. Although I did most definitely find cigarette butts, a majority of them were actually by trash cans! So now the quest for next time becomes, if people are given a safe spot to dispose of cigarette butts will they take the time to keep the beach and surrounding area clean? Stay tuned as I figure out a way to make this happen.
Wind blown and with a bucket full of trash, I end my clean up with hope and a mission for the next months. Thanks for taking the time to read this month’s installation of A Year of Trash. Come back next month for our Earth Day Special Edition! Thalassas has collaborated with the Gulf Coast Research Lab’s Marine and Estuarine Graduate Student Association to host a massive clean-up event. We are so excited! If you will be in the Ocean Springs area on 4/22, please head over to our Facebook page for more event info. See ya later Sea Fans!
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