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The beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore are striking.
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!