Mermaid’s Tears For Earth Day

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.

13 thoughts on “Mermaid’s Tears For Earth Day

  1. Well done, Finn (and Mum!) We have a group called Surfers Against Sewage who have been organising beach clean-ups recently around our coast and one woman who calls herself @onebagaday who picks up a back of plastic every day. I am currently promoting glass and steel water bottles to do a little bit towards reducing the number of plastic water bottles that end up in our seas. I am very grateful there are people like you amd your family who are trying to sace us from ourselves. 👏🏻💧🌍

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m always fascinated by the number of toothbrushes that appear in photos of collected beach waste! You can see how plastic food wrappers and plastic beer can rings etc end up there from tourists and so on but toothbrushes? Do people really flush them down the loo or throw them in the sea?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think people do throw them down the loo. It’s the only answer to why we have so many bathroom items in the ocean: those plastic single use dental floss things (wow, those are ubiquitous), toothbrushes, cosmetics containers, lip balm containers, tampon applicators, birth control pill containers, prescription medicine canisters. Etc. etc.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Wow, they’d block up the pipes here! We can only put loo paper in the loo. There was a huge campaign a few years ago to educate the public to not throw sanitary items, nappy liners, baby wipes etc down the loo.


      • Ps I have so many colouring pencils from when the kids were at school that I just kept hold of for visiting children butnover the years we’ve acquired even more, would you like them in with the gardening gloves when I send them? Also are you any nearer to knowing Br camerman is going, I’d like to know if I’m going to have to post them surface mail?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not near a coastline at all, not that it really matters. The worst of the rubbish I picked up when working for the council in the parks was drink bottles, sweet wrappers and mainly larger items. And then there is those Styrofoam trays that junk food comes in. OMG… >.>
    The birds peck at them to get at the scraps in them and it scatters the plastic all around. Can’t blame the birds as much… But… *rollseyes*

    Obviously our issues will be a lot different to yours in your settings. But it just goes to show how people (don’t) think. The irony is that the same people that drop the litter complain that it’s a mess if we miss a day because of other issues cropping up.

    Oh… And to top it all off… The council doesn’t recycle the plastics because we don’t have the time to sort it all out, we just pick it all in a rush and put it in bags. Its a sticking point for a few people where I worked because we could easily pick up 10-15 big black bags a day of rubbish. And it all just goes in the incinerator.
    I suppose the fact that it doesn’t go in landfill is one saving grace… But I’m reaching here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve done a good bit of collecting plastics and waste in inland regions, even in the villages of the high Himalaya and recently along a riverbank in Colorado and, you know, I can tell you that plastic waste is the same everywhere. The styrofoam is among the most prolific of plastics, in the sea and inland. It’s all coming from us, our homes, our yards, our cars. Just because plastics exist, and they’re buoyant, so they wash down our watersheds no matter where they are, slowing making their way into our rivers and streams and then ultimately out to sea. We’ve observed it all over the world. Depressing, isn’t it?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes. B-(

        We saw it in the streams where I worked all the time. Mainly it was wind-blown but once we actually saw a kid deliberately walk over and dump something in the water! O.o

        I didn’t dare ask what was in his head because we could get in trouble for things like that. B-/

        I can only hope that by educating kids we can change the world… Slowly.

        Liked by 1 person

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