We’ve taken on trash pick-up days before in our family’s quest to complete 100 service projects. However, this one had a bit of a different spin on it. First, I finally bought us some proper gloves for picking up trash! Where’s my Mother of the Year award?! As you can see, the girls were very excited to have their very own pairs of yellow rubber dish gloves. I know…it doesn’t take much to get them excited these days.
Secondly, (and part of the reason for my rubber glove investment) was that we would be focusing our efforts on a different kind of trash. Alison’s recent obsession with ocean pollution has called our attention to the tiny pieces of litter scattered across our planet. They may be small in size, but they have a big collective impact. Even small items like bottle caps eventually break down and become part of the “plastic soup” consumed by ocean life. Birds confuse cigarette butts with food. Sea turtles confuse plastic bags with jelly fish. Tiny pollution is still pollution. Plus, because small litter rarely gets picked up and easily follows the flow of water, it actually has a greater chance of making it to waterways and ultimately our oceans.
During our time in Pichelemu we set out to collect as much small trash on the beach as we could. At a glance, most areas of the waterfront looked fairly clean. We did find some cans and bottles along the sea wall and under the lifeguard houses, but the local municipality had taken care of most of the big litter. What we found a lot of, however, were the little things. Bottle caps, cup lids, ice cream spoons, and small plastic bags. Gum wrappers, chap sticks, random plastic pieces and even lottery tickets (no winners).
But most of all, we found cigarette butts. They were EVERYWHERE. We couldn’t go a single step without finding a handful of them. Specifically, the filters. Apparently, most cigarette filters are composed of a form of plastic called cellulose acetate. Therefore, they will stay in the environment as long as other forms of plastic. Don’t just toss them, people! Find a trash can!
We spent a lot of time walking the beach and picking up tiny things. By the time the kids started complaining that their backs were hurting from all the bending over we were doing, we had gone through 10 trash bags. I decided to call it a day, but we could have walked that beach for weeks and never come close to getting all the butts, caps and bags hiding in the sand. At least those 10 bags of little things found their way into a proper trash can.
Do your little bit of good where you are;
it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
~ Desmond Tutu