A Total Disconnect When It Comes to Trash

Edge of the IRL near Mosquito Lagoon (c) SML

I hate weekenders. The people, local and tourist alike, who visit the lagoon on their days off must be the source of all the trash I found fresh on the beachline and the lagoon today. I went out to scout some locations, take gopher tortoise burrow photos, and look for manatees. I went out with the intention of writing and of thinking about this grand scheme I have whirling about in my head concerning a kayak, and a paddle, and 156 miles of estuary and an outreach campaign. I went with the intention to relax and recharge and just enjoy the beautiful sunshine and the light breeze.

And then I saw all the trash.

I wasn’t at all prepared to do a beach cleanup but after ten minutes of attempting to take photos I became so distracted by the debris that I had to do something. I found plenty of plastic bags on the beach to use to pick up the other trash. All estimated eight pounds of it (the bag felt at least as heavy as a milk jug). Since I’ve been doing lots of heavy lifting on beach cleanups, I’ve added a running tally to the sidebar on WaterNotes, see “Lagoon Trash Pickup”.

Organic and inorganic refuse; a southern puffer and a juicebox (c) SML

Some interesting outliers in the mix? A pair of boxer-briefs, a child’s pink flip flop, a single Nike running sneaker, bait bags with hydroids growing upon them, and an apple juice box resting next to the decaying remains of an unfortunate southern pufferfish who stole someone’s bait too often. The item that really made me wonder about the sanity of the world: a plastic bag with a load of dog poo. Can someone please explain to me the logic of picking up your dog’s waste but leaving it in a Wal-Mart bag at the edge of the estuary?

The blue minivan feeds the birds some popcorn before tossing the bag out the window (c) SML

The final straw today came when a couple drove up to me, rolled down their windows, and asked what I was doing. I politely explained the pollution situation and briefly mentioned how wildlife are effected by trash. They shook their heads and agreed, “It’s a d**n shame.” They slowly drove past me further down the shoreline. The old man opened his window, held out a bag of popped popcorn, and began to shake it on the ground for the ring billed gulls, white ibis, terns, and starlings. (This obviously is their natural food afterall.) When the bag was empty, he threw it on the ground, made a u-turn and drove off.

All I could do was stare.