By Finn Clark when he was age 9 (With Some Help from his Mom)
Last Friday was Earth Day at our school, a Montessori school called Voyager, and we created art from plastic my family found on the beaches of Bainbridge Island and the Olympic Peninsula. For the past 2-3 months, we have collected plastics that we find on our shorelines and in parking lots and watersheds, stream beds and estuaries headed toward the sea.
For our spring break, we camped at Second Beach, in Olympic National Park, and were amazed at the amount of plastic washing ashore from the Pacific Ocean’s waves. My little sister and I collected plastic for about an hour and hardly made a dent in the plastics spread across the sand.
When we woke up in the morning little bits of plastic seemed to sparkle along the high tide line, thousands of tiny shards and pieces worn and broken down by the action of the waves. Plastic can’t decompose, it just gets smaller and smaller until it becomes a thick soup in our waters. But the most disturbing pieces of plastic are miniscule nurdles, little round white discs, that are the raw plastics used to make anything that is plastic. One scientist went to hundreds of beaches around the world and found nurdles on every beach he studied, even on beaches in countries where plastics aren’t manufactured. Some people call them “mermaids’ tears,” and I think that’s a good name because they make me sad, too.
They’re toxic, sadly, as they act like a sponge, absorbing persistant organic pollutants (POPs) like DDT and PCB that are afloat in our waters. The yellower the nurdle, the more toxic it is.
We brought the larger chunks of plastic to our school for Earth Day and made 4 panels of art, following the rainbow spectrum of colors, to show people that every color imaginable is found on our favorite beach. Now that art will be hung at our school to remind us that maybe we should rethink the plastics we use everyday and find better alternatives that will biodegrade or break back down naturally into the environment.
My mom and her good friend, Rebecca, are trying to provide solutions to this problem of plastic in our environment, one piece at a time. That’s what a whole website, called Trash Backwards that Rebecca and my mom created is about. The most common things we find on the beaches, the straws, pens, plastic bottle caps, toothbrushes, and fireworks are a few of the items they’re researching and trying to find non-plastic alternatives for us all to use.
What common items have you found on your beach, in your parking lots, or sidewalks? Tell us, list them below, even a single word will do, and we’ll start researching non-plastic alternatives so we can live lives a little less plastic in the future.