Surfrider/SOLVE Beach Champions have removed almost two tons of plastic from the beach at the Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area in Otter Rock. “We’re closing in on two tons, and most of it has been in pieces less than an inch in diameter,” said Scott Rosen, chair of the Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation. Rosen has been leading the cleanups each Sunday since last winter.
Rosen said when people think of plastic in the ocean, they normally think of plastic bottles breaking down little by little into smaller and smaller pieces. But ocean plastic also comes from chewing gum, cigarette butts (the number one plastic pollutant), clothing (fleece, polyester, acrylic and nylon fibers that wash out of washing machines), washing machine parts (about 35 percent plastic), auto parts (close to 50 percent plastic), disposable coffee cups and aluminum cans (lined with plastic), glass jars (in the lids), “biodegradable” packaging and more.
“Almost all of this stuff, even if it resides temporarily in a landfill, eventually winds up in our ocean,” Rosen said. The two tons of plastic recovered at Otter Rock is the equivalent of 95,493 16-ounce plastic bottles, and it accumulated at that location due to three factors. First, plastic travels with the tides and along with tsunamis. The plastic found at Otter Rock could have originated almost anywhere in the world. Second, plastic never goes away; it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic. The plastic found at Otter Rock could have been there for years. Third, a local gyre off the Otter Rock coast captures plastic, where it swirls round and round and then is washed ashore each year, twice a year, by King Tides.
Some of the plastic removed could have been in the ocean ever since Coke started putting its product in plastic bottles in 1978. Weekly beach cleanups will resume again next winter after the King Tides come again.
Information and photo provided by SURFRIDER