Don’t be a DH

Click on the words “Don’t be a DH” above to see this post with a related header image.

Every imaginable thing washes ashore on the nearby beaches, some unimaginable things as well.

Below are a few odd items I have found over the past years as I collected trash from the beaches of Point Reyes.

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You are welcome to download and print this image provided you leave it as it is, with copyright intact.

You are welcome to download and print this image provided you leave it as it is, with copyright intact.

What price convenience? Plastic, the gift that keeps on giving.

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

After Thanksgiving 2012 I made six visits in quick succession to the beaches of Limantour, Drakes, and South within Point Reyes National Seashore as well as one visit to Slide Ranch.

What you see in the images below was what I collected. It is by no means all that had washed up. I packed out what I could carry. And I do mean everything, all the items the smaller pieces are displayed upon were packed out as well.

All of these images can be seen larger if you click on them.

Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Tampon applicators - known as beach whistles in the beach-walking community. I am told by a female friend that if women were not taught to be afraid of their own bodies, these would not exist. They wash up by the hundreds when conditions are right, err wrong.

Tampon applicators – known as beach whistles in the beach-walking community. I am told by a female friend that if women were not taught to be afraid of their own bodies, these would not exist. They wash up by the hundreds when conditions are right, err wrong.

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Toys, pill containers, cheese-like-substance spreaders, deodorant applicators. All part of the fast-paced human life of convenience.

Toys, pill containers, cheese-like-substance spreaders, deodorant applicators. All part of the fast-paced human life of convenience.

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I recently purchased a toothbrush where I can replace the brush part when needed, keeping the handle which may never wear out. See below this image on where you can buy one and reduce the amount of plastic crap we humans inject into our ecosystem.

I recently purchased a toothbrush where I can replace the brush part when needed, keeping the handle which may never wear out. See below this image on where you can buy one and reduce the amount of plastic crap we humans inject into our ecosystem.

One company that makes a sensible tooth brush is Ecodent

Toxic beverage containers, also known as disposable cups. See below this image for where to purchase a reusable coffee mug.

Toxic beverage containers, also known as disposable cups. See below this image for where to purchase a reusable coffee mug.

One company that sells a nice spill-proof coffee-cup is contigo

There is nothing smart about Smartwater. See below this image for where to purchase a metal water bottle you can use forever. Imagine not wasting oil to make a bottle that most people toss aside. Imagine.....

There is nothing smart about Smartwater. See below this image for where to purchase a metal water bottle you can use forever. Imagine not wasting oil to make a bottle that most people toss aside. Imagine…..

One company that makes a reusable water bottle is Klean Kanteen.

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Learn something you likely did not know about Fiji Water.

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Oyster grow-out bags, crab trap bait bags and many, many tennis balls. The bag on the bottom is definitely from Drakes Bay Oyster Company. The upper bag is used by all the local oyster farmers. I find them all the time.

Oyster grow-out bags, crab trap bait bags and many, many tennis balls. The bag on the bottom is definitely from Drakes Bay Oyster Company. The upper bag is used by all the local oyster farmers. I find them all the time.

Crab fishing residue. What if the price of crab in the market reflected the true cost to the planet of growing and harvesting it?

Crab fishing residue. What if the price of crab in the market reflected the true cost to the planet of growing and harvesting it?

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Could that bottle of mouthwash have belonged to D. Lee?

Could that bottle of mouthwash have belonged to D. Lee?

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Oyster spacer tubes made from PVC pipe used by Johnson's Oysters which was purchased by Drakes Bay Oyster Company. I found 490 of them in less than a week. My one day record is 722. Many are clearly very old. Though many are like new, not a bit of ocean growth on them.

Oyster spacer tubes made from PVC pipe used by Johnson’s Oysters which was purchased by Drakes Bay Oyster Company. I found 490 of them in less than a week. My one day record is 722. Many are clearly very old. Though many are like new, not a bit of ocean growth on them.

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Disposable lighters, also known as fake-albatross food. See the link below this image for images made by Chris Jordan showing dead albatross on Midway Atoll whose bellies are full of plastic bits and lighters.

Disposable lighters, also known as fake-albatross food. See the link below this image for images made by Chris Jordan showing dead albatross on Midway Atoll whose bellies are full of plastic bits and lighters.

See a previous post showing the harm done to wild birds by our selfishness, here.

Packaging for non-food that is killing the human race. This stuff washes up by the truckload. That is, if it is not devoured by turtles first.

Packaging for non-food that is killing the human race. This stuff washes up by the truckload. That is, if it is not devoured by turtles first.

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Oyster spacer tubes from Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster spacer tubes from Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Packing straps fill the oceans, strangling turtles and seals. NOTE: Marine Mammal Center, contact me before using my images.

Packing straps fill the oceans, strangling turtles and seals. NOTE: Marine Mammal Center, contact me before using my images.

Oil, cottage cheese, yogurt, tapioca, yogurt, oysters, jumbo red worms and more oysters. All framed by an oyster grow-out bag from Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oil, cottage cheese, yogurt, tapioca, yogurt, oysters, jumbo red worms and more oysters. All framed by an oyster grow-out bag from Drakes Bay Oyster Company

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Foster Farms Value Pack Combo, no added hormones or steroids. Wash some down with Capri Sun high fructose corn-syrup. Unsustainable petroleum-based packaging? Ahhhh, who gives a damn? Please pass the pastrami!

Foster Farms Value Pack Combo, no added hormones or steroids. Wash some down with Capri Sun high fructose corn-syrup. Unsustainable petroleum-based packaging? Ahhhh, who gives a damn? Please pass the pastrami!

Am I shoveling shit against the tide by picking up all this human trash from our beaches? Like Sisyphus, I've cheated death more than once. Like Sisyphus and his boulder, I've been walking the earth picking up after my species.

Am I shoveling shit against the tide by picking up all this human trash from our beaches? Like Sisyphus, I’ve cheated death more than once. Like Sisyphus and his boulder, I’ve been walking the earth picking up after my species.

Shoes and hat brims by the hundreds

Shoes and hat brims by the hundreds

Tyvek suit, made in China. Most everything pictured in these images was fashioned there and shipped to the US. What a waste of energy. We can do better. We must.

Tyvek suit, made in China. Most everything pictured in these images was fashioned there and shipped to the US. What a waste of energy. We can do better. We must.

Commercial crab trap tags. Recognize anyone you know? I do.

Commercial crab trap tags. Recognize anyone you know? I do.

shuttle-cock, binkies, fish, flowers, lip-balm, and what day would be complete without a syringe or two? Oh yes and a toy star trek phaser cartridge bottom center. Brad Campbell taught me at a very young age that I could use those as a coin in a gumball machine. Thankfully the statute of limitation has likely expired on that crime.

shuttle-cock, binkies, fish, flowers, lip-balm, and what day would be complete without a syringe or two? Oh yes and a toy star trek phaser cartridge bottom center. Brad Campbell taught me at a very young age that I could use those as a coin in a gumball machine. Thankfully the statute of limitation has likely expired on that crime.

Organic energy shots are the best for washing down Easy Cheese. A pouch of emergency water is nice to have on hand too, as a chaser.

Organic energy shots are the best for washing down Easy Cheese. A pouch of emergency water is nice to have on hand too, as a chaser.

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Larry Ellison had a little trouble with his 9 million dollar America's Cup boat (AC72). I have been finding pieces of it washing up all over the place. That is aluminum or paper honeycomb sandwiched by carbon fiber you see.

Larry Ellison had a little trouble with his 9 million dollar America’s Cup boat (AC72). I have been finding pieces of it washing up all over the place. That is aluminum or paper honeycomb sandwiched by carbon fiber you see.

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Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Fishing is hard on the sea, living is hard on my heart

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

The debris shown in the images below was collected after the first big storm of 2012 in early February.

Over two days I spent 10 hours and covered about three miles of Drakes Beach and South Beach. Just imagine what all the beaches of Point Reyes were covered with from just one storm!

The plan was to have posted these images in February. Due to painful distractions, I am finally getting around to sharing what I hope you find are compelling images. That is, I hope they compel you to give some thought to all that happens in order to bring seafood to your table.

Tomorrow is the commercial crab opener of 2012. Thousands of crab pots have been dropped in the sea attached to miles and miles of petroleum based rope, foam floats and plastic bait jars. Much of this gear will be lost due to storm, propeller strike or other activities. While scraping and grinding along the bottom of the sea, or abrading on the beach sand, many thousands of pounds of plastic will be pulverized and deposited into the food chain.

Does society have any idea what is undertaken to put seafood on their table? The time, expense and effort of the fishermen, the vast amount of gear lost at sea each season, or stolen by unscrupulous crab fishermen? A local fishermen once told me, after sharing with me the many ways in which fishermen “do unto others” in not such golden ways, “Crab fishing makes ya crabby!”

Be sure to have a look at the last picture. There you will get a close look at about 75 oyster spacer tubes from Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) in the foreground. I have found well over 5000 of these in the last five years. From as far north as the tip of Tomales Point and south to Slide Ranch.

Click on image for bigger picture – Debris recovered over two days work, about ten hours effort

Click on image for bigger picture – Should the price of crab reflect the cost to the planet?

Click on image for bigger picture – Maybe some of this is yours?

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Click on image for bigger picture – Heroin, nicotine and caffeine….slower, faster, anywhere but here and now…

Click on image for bigger picture – If all dogs at the seashore are on leash….how come I find 100′s of tennis balls and ball tossers each year?

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Click on image for bigger picture – Each one of those orange tags represents about $200 in lost gear for a crab fisherman. What if they paid a deposit on each trap set? To offset the cost of picking up after all their gear that litters the ocean and beaches.

Click on image for bigger picture – Black PVC pipe oyster spacers used by Drakes Bay Oyster Company. You see 75 or so here. I have found over 5000 of these on Point Reyes beaches, as well as dozens oyster grow-out bags and the foam from inside grow-out bags.

All forms of commercial fishing take a huge toll on our planet.

Is it asking too much to set aside portions of the planet as areas we tread upon lightly, or tread upon not at all?

Many say we must do all we can to produce food locally, sustainably to feed the 7 billion humans on earth.

Others say we need to slow the growth of the human population, keep it more in line with the carrying capacity of earth.

This planet is fragile. Humans, only one of the many species on this blue sphere, have developed the means to do great good and great harm. As we ever more quickly modify our nest, it is less able to feed an ever growing population. Does this make sense? Does a growing family move into ever smaller and smaller housing?

I think The Dude said it best:

Sparky the brown pelican

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NOTE: The following events occurred May/June of 2011.

©2012 Richard James

As some of you know, because I called you for help as the following unfolded,
today while picking up the beach I came upon an injured brown pelican.

Sparky, wings dragging

Both wings were drooping a bit as it shuffled off when I first came upon it.

Pelicans soar over the water looking for fish. When a fish is spotted, wings are tucked back, beak out straight, they dive down and hopefully scoop up a meal in their over-sized pouch. If they are not so lucky, they miss, take off and try again. If they are really unfortunate, they hit the surface of the water at the wrong angle and break a wing or two, or their neck.

This bird was dry and other than the dangling wings (which I believe were broken) looked just fine as it eyed me crouching 30 feet away, admiring the gorgeous lines and feathers. I dropped my bags of trash, sorted out my camera gear and crawled around, awed by the beauty of this enormous bird and recorded images. After shooting pictures of it for about 15-20 minutes, I asked the bird out loud if it wanted me to leave it on the beach or get help. Without hesitation, the bird walked 10 feet towards me and stopped in front of me, staring, blinking, waiting it seemed.

Question answered.

I stashed the large debris I had collected above the high-tide line behind a large log and stowed my camera gear for the hike out. I pulled out one of the large white bags from my pack that I use to hold litter. After straightening the bag so I knew where the edges were, I stood up and eyed the bird before me. I’d have to move quick to secure it.

Up til now, the bird had been very docile during the photoshoot. Now, as I quickly strode towards it, I presented the biggest threat it had seen from me and raised both wings up high and opened its’ razor sharp beak. Closing the distance between us rapidly, I gently draped the entire bird, wings, sharp beak and all within the bag and closed down on it.

Carefully I tucked the wings into their natural closed state. With wings secure, I made sure the beak was closed and wrapped my hand gently around it, then tucked the bird under my right arm and walked to pick up my small bag of plastic rubbish.

Hmm, now to get to my car with a very large bird under my arm.

I could walk south, then east to my car, nearly 2 miles, or, I could walk north about a third of a mile to Ben Davis’ place. I decided to walk to Ben’s and see if he would give me a ride back to my car. If he was not there, I’d walk down his long driveway to the road and hitch a ride back to my car, I hoped.

After walking, occasionally stooping to pick up trash and re-cradling Sparky as I decided to call this bird, I reached Ben’s place. All the way down the beach, Sparky was quite relaxed under my arm, hardly moving. Only when I turned away from the sea to scale the bluff did it become active and struggle under my arm, trying to free itself.

Looking up towards the house, there was Ben, Pat and their nearest neighbor Ernie Spalleta at the bench having a beer, it was Memorial Day weekend.

As I walked up, Ben called out my name to see if it was me, I said yes and that I had a favor to ask.

I told him what I had under my arm and asked for a ride to my car.

He instantly got up and said sure.

Hos tiny dog hopped into the pickup with me as I sat down and sniffed my bundle. Sparky was none too happy about this. I suggested to Ben we leave the dog behind. He handed it to Pat and off we went down the long drive to Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

On the short ride to my car, Ben related that in days gone by, pelican feathers were coveted for fishing lures called “hoochies” and people would often shoot them to get these sought after plumes.

Back at my car I thanked Ben as he drove off and re-wrapped Sparky and packed my things. The bird rested on my lap so I could secure it while I drove back to my place. Sparky left several chalky white deposits on my lap, seat and center console. For a bird more at ease soaring inches off the waves, riding in this noisy metal box was likely not all that comforting. My several calls to friends in the know led me to a place where they rehabilitate wild animals. I hoped they would be able to help out this gorgeous bird. Tiny mites crawled all over me.

Once home, I placed Sparky in a large plastic tub I found on Kehoe last year, covering it with two plastic screens I had also found washed up on local beaches recently. I weighted it all down with a large piece of anthracite I found 2 years ago and got in the shower to wash the bugs off. Being sure to strip my bug infested clothes off while out on the deck where they still sit.

I checked on Sparky as I left for the event I had to attend and there he/she sat, quite calm.

After returning I have checked 2 more times to see the bird has moved to a new position each time and seems to be resting peacefully.

I’ll drive to Wild Care in the morning to drop Sparky off and hope for a speedy recovery.

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Above is all I wrote that evening.

I continued to check on Sparky every 20-30 minutes. Each time all looked fine as it crouched in the large tub acting as home until I could get it to the bird care place the next morning.

At 12 midnight I came out to find Sparky was lifeless, head slumped down on the floor.
I reached in and found the body still warm, rigor had not set in.

Although not surprised, I was still sad. I had hoped to get this bird to where its’ wings could be mended and it could be released. No more.

I later learned that large birds like this, once they break wings, can never be released to the wild. So it is probably for the better. No animals belong in a zoo.

The next day I wrapped the pelican body in the same bag as before and hiked back to the spot I found it. I unwrapped it and left it for the scavengers and elements.

The next day I returned to see what had become of my friend.

Each evening and morning, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and bobcats roam the beach in search of food.

Nature is so beautiful, no lies, no hesitation, no waste, no greed.

Below are some images of brown pelicans from over the years. Click on an image to see it larger.

For Kate

Gray sky, gray whales

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This morning at 7, following a tip heard by me during restless sleep last night I made my way to McClures Beach.

My wipers slapped the condensed gray of the sky off my windshield as I drove north to see what was meant for me.

Crawling indelicately across the mussel and algae covered rocks protecting the north end of the cove between Elephant Rock and McClures Beach, oystercatchers announced my ungainly presence to the pelicans diving for breakfast and the cormorants filing past in long lines.

Not 150 feet offshore, two mottled gray, scar-covered backs broke the surface, one large, one small, attached at their waists it seemed, loud gasps announced their meeting the surface. Effortlessly they slid beneath the swell-less sea.

Again and again for 45 minutes I watched as they rose and dove in search of breakfast. I imagine a dozen or more, some far out, at least three, a cow-calf pair and a third made it to within 100 feet of me as I sat on the rocks enjoying this treat playing out before me.

Not once did I see any wrappers, cups or plastic bits usher forth as they devoured their morning meal.

I thought I heard one say to the other as they eyed me onshore, “See, there’s one of them. They think they’re so clever.”

These animals have more sense in one fluke than do 6 billion humans and all the smart-phones to ever be built.

Not me, I know I’m as dumb as a very big bag of plastic bottles.

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Orca at Point Reyes

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NOTE2: Go to this post to see images of the skeleton being assembled at The Academy of Science.

NOTE: Hello orca enthusiast. You’ve found my images, take a moment to leave a comment at the bottom of this page. Tell me how you got here, what your interest in orcas is. This orca skeleton is being assembled at the California Academy of Science for the next few weeks. Go here to learn more.

I packed out both pectoral fins as well as four vertebrae.

Here are images from the removal of O319 from the beach.

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An 18 foot long, juvenile male orca washed ashore on a remote beach at Point Reyes just before thanksgiving 2011. This animal belongs to one of three ecotypes, the offshore group. It was last seen off Vancouver in September. The other ecotypes are resident and transient. These names are derived based on what the animals do during the summer months.

A full necropsy was performed. Blood was found in the blowhole and there was other evidence of trauma to the head. This may have been the result of being struck by a ship, or during interactions with other whales. No determination on cause of death has been made.

Little is known about offshore orcas. This may be only the second specimen of this type to be collected, most animals die offshore and sink.

Orcas are actually members of the dolphin family, the largest member. Males can grow to over 30 feet long, though are usually 20-26 feet in length. This is the first killer whale known to wash ashore at Point Reyes in many decades.

Offshore orcas mainly feed on sharks. Sharks have very tough skin and that is likely why the teeth of this animal are very degraded. Resident animals mainly feed on salmon, transients prefer marine mammals, such as seals.

Here is some video of the whale in the surf.

Orca – ©Richard James Photography

Orca – ©Richard James Photography

Orca flukes – ©Richard James Photography

Orca fluke – ©Richard James Photography

Orca mouth – ©Richard James Photography

Orca teeth – ©Richard James Photography

orca teeth closeup – ©Richard James Photography

Nineteen is a prime number – too large and too small…

Last Saturday I walked 3 miles along Point Reyes Beach from North Beach to Abbotts Lagoon with the Point Reyes Plover expert. She does this regularly during Western Snowy Plover breeding season. She also covers other regions of the Point Reyes Snowy Plover breeding area. This day we were on the lookout for 5 Snowy Plover chicks that had hatched recently.

She prowled for birds while I gleaned the plastics that wash ashore on a regular basis.

After creating a small depression in the sand and lining it with mostly light colored rocks to increase the stealthiness of the nest, a female plover will lay 2-4 eggs directly on the sand. Most times she lays 3 eggs.

Three Western Snowy Plover eggs in a scrape (nest)

About 28 days later, if the sea has not washed away the eggs, ravens, crows, coyotes, raccoons, skunks or weasels have not eaten the eggs, off-leash dogs or errant humans have not trampled the nest, the birds emerge form their cocoon. Plover chicks are “precocious”, meaning that they are out of the nest and cruising for food within hours after hatching.

Mother plover leaves to go find another mate, father plover begins a month-long odyssey attempting to ensure his brood learns to eat, and keeps from being eaten.

Researchers consider a chick fledged if it survives 28 days. The last 3 years at Point Reyes have seen 7, 8 and 5 chicks fledge (2010, 2009, 2008). There are an estimated 5000 plovers, period.

Western Snowy Plovers are on the endangered species list. This means that they are in danger of going extinct. Extinct means there are no more plovers. Ever.

Dog owners, please keep this in mind the next time you want to let your domesticated, far from extinct pal run off-leash in this area.

Beach driftwood architects, enjoy building your complex driftwood structures. But, once you are done, please dismantle your work-of-art. Ravens use these structures to rest and look for prey, including endangered plovers. Don’t make it easy for ravens to further reduce the dwindling numbers of snowy plovers.

The park plover expert knows when each plover egg is laid and when each chick hatches. Finding all plovers present and accounted for each day is a good day.

Last Saturday we found all 5 chicks, plus fourteen adults for a total of nineteen birds.

I found a small bag of plastic trash, including nineteen plastic beverage bottles.

Nineteen plastic bottles, nineteen too many

So, depending on one’s perspective, nineteen is too small, and too large.

Please use one metal bottle for your drinking water needs.

The coastodian

Powered by petroleum

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Powered by petroleum

Does my Prius consume more gasoline to go a mile than was needed to build and ship all those plastic bottles on the roof?

I don’t know.

Google could give me lots of numbers in a short time.

My eyes tell me that plastic bottles, even one, consume too much oil.

We kid ourselves, thinking it gets recycled, all is good.

If it gets recycled, why do I find thousands upon thousands of plastic water bottles on a fraction of the California coast each year?

What about all the animals that will eventually eat all that plastic we keep dumping in the ocean?

Man is one of those animals.

Tomorrow, instead of pouring milk on your cereal or in your coffee, eat the bottle.

Go direct!

Cut out the middleman and save.

Experience what all the fishes and birds in the sea do every day.

Or buy milk in a glass bottle.

Or raise chickens and trade their eggs for milk from your neighbor’s cow Rosie like a friend of mine does.

That bottle on my car is at Marin Arts Council for another month as part of their Pop Art show.

Check out the show here.

Go see lots of cool art. Buy a card and support the arts and your local coastodian.

Stop buying bottled water!

Get a metal water bottle and use your tap.

Put a filter on the tap if you don’t like the taste.

Stop fouling the rivers if you don’t want to filter that which belongs to our children, and their children, and so on.

the coastodian

Meta-bottles on Drake’s Beach, huh?

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The beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore are striking.

Meta-bottles on Drake's Beach

I often walk these beaches in search of interesting  subjects to photograph, as well as to soothe my soul, collecting trash along the way.

In 3 years I have packed out on my back over three tons of trash, mostly plastic and styrofoam bits of all sizes.

After a couple of years of packing 80+ pound packs of foam and boat bits off Tomales Point and the area beaches, it was suggested to me more than once that I ought to store one years’ worth of trash, then display it downtown for all to see. My response evolved into, “That is a great idea, may I store it at your place?” Always, this was met with a grin and a no-thanks.

Having this exchange a few times prompted me to decide to store a year’s worth of drink bottles and display them somehow, with the hope of encouraging people to use a refillable metal bottle and stop buying plastic. The folks at Point Reyes National Seashore kindly allowed me to store my material in a park barn.

I constructed what I call meta-bottles. Bottles of bottles. The contents and the caps (two-gallon buckets) are beach debris. The chicken wire was donated, then purchased when that ran out. It is all held together with, sigh, plastic tie-wraps. I tried to sew the chicken wire with found rope. It was not do-able in the manner I tried, though I plan to re-examine this for future bottles.

Each bottle is 8.5 feet tall and 30 inches in diameter. The five bottles comprise roughly 172 cubic feet of mostly uncompressed plastic bottles.

Intact labels show countries of origin including: Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Malaysia, Greece. A small percentage are clearly “home-grown in the US of A”. The currents of the sea bring others’ trash to us, perhaps our trash to them. The sea creatures see it all, often thinking it is food to eat.

What I have learned from my many hours on the beach is that it does not so much matter how many people pick up the trash that is coming in, 24/7/365 from the sea.  Myself and 1000 others could work each and every day and not keep up with the new trash arriving each day.

More importantly, we all need to stop adding to the mess by making wiser, more sustainable hydration and other purchase choices.

These meta-bottles show what one person can pick up on a fraction of the earth’s coastline in one short year. Imagine what is trapped in the many gyres in all the seas! The earth cannot metabolize what man keeps dumping in the sea. These bottles eventually break down and are eaten by fish, that are eaten by fish and eventually eaten by man.

Please consider never buying another plastic bottle of water. Tell a friend, too!

Thanks go out to Lacey, Joe, Madeleine, Gordon, Samantha, Micaela, Katrina, Sean, Katie, Jesse, Chris, Angie, Gabe, Melanie, Randy, Carissa and especially Vicki for helping me along the way. Thanks everyone!

The Coastodian