Friday, July 6, 2012

Special guest in Zone 3

Today I had the opportunity to walk with a special guest in zone 3. I had the pleasure of meeting and walking with Caren Cooper, who is a Research Associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She studies and is currently writing a book on citizen science, and why people voluntarily get involved in science-based and nature-based activities. In honor of Independence Day, she recently wrote this Scientific American article about Thomas Jefferson, the founder of citizen science. Pretty neat, eh?

It was fun to talk with Caren and also to have a litter-picking-up buddy today. We found some unusual things in Zone 3, including this plastic hanger she picked up.

We also found a whole array of plastic sand toys near one beach access. They all looked brand new, and we wondered if perhaps someone would come back from one of the hotels or rental houses to claim them. We opted to gather them together and place them on one of the benches rather than take them with us. They are not included in my list below.

I expected the litter at the beach to be heavy today, and our findings were definitely not contradictory to my expectations. We filled my whole reusable bag quite easily, and even mashed the trash down into it so that we could pile more on top. We also took some large objects right to the trash cans, and left some others behind, such as an umbrella and a tent frame. It is honestly difficult to say how much trash we picked up, because there was so much of it. A conservative estimate would be 6 plastic grocery bags worth. A lot of it was kind of nasty with melted food and/or smeared suntan lotion on it, so those items got trashed right away and are not pictured here.
Items that I counted included:
1 beer bottle
12 plastic water bottles
6 water balloons (1 was still full of water when Caren picked it up)
34 bottle caps
26 plastic straws
2 Hi-C juice boxes
2 stray flip flops
5 plastic cups
5 sand toys
6 soda/beer cans
29 firework remnants
50 cigarette butts

Does anyone know for sure what these bright green pieces of plastic are? I found 14 of them. I am assuming they are some sort of component of fireworks.

One thing that surprised Caren as we picked up litter was when she asked "are all those blue barrels trashcans?" and I responded "yes!" It is hard to understand why people sometimes do not take that one extra little step to throw away trash or recycle an item properly. Caren surmised that perhaps people do not see the beach as an ecosystem, as they would if they were in, say, a rainforest, for example. Instead they just see it as a big recreation area. I think she is onto something here!


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