11 July 2013

Beach trash

     For decades very few people visited False Bluff because the only way to get there was either to hire a boat and travel a costly distance up the Caribbean coast...or to slog a half-mile through a swamp, very uncomfortable in the dry season and hell during the wet.   
     So there's not been much effort to clean up the trash that washes ashore.   It's easy to see it's been coming in for a long time because some old stuff has been buried deep, uncovered as the sand comes and goes.

     I've tried to figure out where the trash comes from.   The closest land to the east where humans live and produce trash are the two Corn Islands, Big and Little.   They're only forty miles off shore but a lot of what has washed ashore at False Bluff isn't the sort of stuff that would have come from either place.   I think most of it's the residue of decades of cruise ships jettisoning their trash into the Caribbean.  
     As recently as 2009 many of the islands and countries in and along the Caribbean sea had not adopted the United Nations dumping ban that requires cruise ships to treat ship-generated garbage on land.   The Marine Pollution Control Act bans cruise ships from dumping plastics anywhere but they are permitted to dump garbage into the sea if it's been ground into smaller pieces (whatever 'smaller pieces' are).  

     I've begun to wonder over the last few years if maybe publicity about their dumping has caused some cruise ship lines to re-think their policies and take some ameliorating action.  (They make much of their money off the Caribbean, so to me it's logical that they'd invest in taking care of it.)  I think this because much of what we clean up are 'vintage' products, often quite easy to determine by labels; and because less and less 'new' stuff washes shore.   
     Maybe that last is wishful thinking on my part, that part about less stuff washing ashore because of a cruise ship line's efforts.   And that in reality we've cleaned up trash that took decades to collect and so we're seeing less now simply because we're making constant efforts to clean up, not waiting decades between clean-ups.
picture by Andre Shank

     Maybe the trash is still coming in on each tide the way it always has, and the difference is that now someone's taking the time to pick it up before it collects.  Who knows...but we'll just keep cleaning the beach.