I used to walk along the beach looking for sea shells. Gathering them in my hands, remarking on their imperfect beauty as they were inevitably broken or smoothed by the churning waves and sand.

Now I walk along the beach and gather plastic. I conjecture on its provenance, how it came to this place on the beach? A piece of styrofoam from a buoy? A bottle cap from a soda on the beach? Each item tells a story of humanity’s over-consumption and lack of foresight.

I was on holiday with my family in the Dominican Republic. The beaches of Porta Plata are beautifully maintained. The water is pristine and free of debris, the beach itself is very clean, this is due to the industriousness of the people of the DR and I do not mean for my musings to impinge on their success which is the product of their labors.

Just like looking for shells on the beach, when you begin to see one you see so many—once your eyes and brain have calibrated to the visual code—the complexity of shape, color, and texture on the sand—you see so many more!

Bottle caps, colorful and round pop up out of the sand like gems. I gather them in my hands, I find a plastic cup to hold more. I can’t carry anymore without spilling them, so I see a resort caretaker and ask where the “basura” goes. He smiles at me and says it isn’t good for the “playa” I say it is “feo” and he laughs and agrees. I continue walking and gathering more trash, my exhilaration fading with the crushing reality of how much plastic we have littered our planet with. I am as guilty as anyone of this. I wonder if the trash I am picking up will just come to rest on some other beach? It is depressing. I try not to thinking of the plastic gyre in the Pacific, growing like cancer, or the microscopic pieces of plastic floating in the seemingly pristine water. Filling the stomachs of the beautiful fish we dine on nightly here and everywhere!

I don’t know what the answer is, it feels futile. But I see another bottle cap and I grasp it in my fingers, eyeing how weathered its edges are, bleached from the sun and salt. I conjecture that it has been floating in the ocean for a while and recently alighted on this beach. I will put it in the basura and pray it finds a permanent resting place from whence it will travel no more.

#plastictrash #plasticgyre #saveouroceans